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Property Manager Fined for Failing to Manage Asbestos

28 June 2012

A property manager from Cardiff has been fined for failing to comply with the duty to manage the risks from asbestos at premises on the Penygraig Industrial Estate, Rhondda.

Richard Hayward, trading as Richard Hayward Properties, managed the property on behalf of another company. Pontypridd Magistrates’ Court heard that he had let out part of the building in 2007 but it was only in 2008, when a request to provide an asbestos survey for insurance purposes was made, that the presence of asbestos insulating board, roof tiles and brown and blue asbestos was identified in the premises.

A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirmed that there was a risk of exposure to asbestos due to the poor condition of the asbestos.

The court heard that between 2005 and 2008 three companies had occupied the building. During this time, structural work to install a partition wall was completed and contractors were hired to carry out electrical works at the site. It is when asbestos fibres are disturbed, e.g. by drilling or cutting, that they are most likely to be inhaled as a deadly dust. In addition to those undertaking the work, any persons in the vicinity, including tenants, were at risk of exposure to asbestos.

The HSE investigation found that Mr Hayward had not taken steps to discover whether asbestos was present or likely to be present and had failed effectively to identify and manage the risks arising from asbestos-containing materials at the building.

Mr Hayward was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,000.

HSE inspector Lee Schilling said, “The dangers of asbestos are well known in the property management industry.

“Mr Hayward could have prevented the risk of exposing persons to asbestos if he had simply considered whether or not asbestos was present when he first took over control of the building and, having confirmed its presence, passed on relevant information to those who were liable to disturb it.

“For Mr Hayward not to inform relevant persons that asbestos was present demonstrated a major failing in his management procedures at that time.”

People who control non-domestic premises not only have duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 but also have a legal duty under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 to manage asbestos. The duty also applies to the common areas of residential rented buildings.

You have a duty to manage asbestos if:

•    you own the building;
•    you are responsible through a contract or tenancy agreement; or
•    there is no formal contract or agreement but you have control of the building.

The ‘duty holder’ must take reasonable steps to find out if the premises contain asbestos and, if they do, its amount, where it is and what condition it is in. Unless there is strong evidence that the building does not contain any asbestos material, it must be assumed that it does.

HSE guidance on the management of asbestos can be found at http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/managing/index.htm.

For more information on this subject or any other legal matter,
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