A demolition contractor in the United Kingdom has been sentenced after admitting illegally removing asbestos from a building he was working on.

David William Briggs, trading as Briggs Demolition, was found to have ignored an asbestos survey while demolishing the former Oakbank Training Centre in Chadderton, Oldham.

Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard he also failed to prevent exposure to asbestos to workers and others on site.

The firm from Bridge Works, Wellington Street, Bury, was contracted to demolish the former education centre and advised the site owners to have the site surveyed for asbestos before demolition could begin. Mr Briggs recommended a suitable surveyor and the site owner paid for a full asbestos survey to be carried out on Mr Briggs’ recommendation.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), prosecuting, told the court that Mr Briggs then chose to ignore the asbestos report which identified approximately 230 sq m (2,475 sq ft) of asbestos materials throughout the buildings, and began demolition without having any of it safely removed.

HSE first visited the site in 2015, and met Mr Briggs on site. It found that approximately half of the buildings had been demolished or partly demolished. When Mr Briggs was asked if the asbestos had been removed he denied there was any on site.

A HSE Prohibition Notice was served on Mr Briggs and on the site owners, stopping work until the extent of the asbestos disturbance could be established. HSE visited with scientists from the Health and Safety Laboratory and confirmed the findings of the original asbestos survey report and identified hazardous asbestos in the remaining buildings.

The court heard that three workers were potentially exposed to deadly asbestos fibres. They also heard that local residents and passers-by to the site were also at risk due to the uncontrolled method of demolition where large amounts of asbestos were present.

Mr Briggs was charged with failing to protect the safety of his employees, failing to protect the safety of other persons not employed by him (members of the public), failure to prevent the spread of asbestos and one count of illegally removing asbestos materials without a licence.

David William Briggs of Wellington Street, Bury, pleaded guilty at Manchester Magistrates’ to breaching Section 2(1) & Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and Regulations 8 (1) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. He was sentenced to 24 weeks imprisonment.

HSE inspector Matt Greenly said: “Mr Briggs wilfully ignored a professional asbestos survey, instigated by himself, and in doing so failed in his duty to protect his workers and anyone else around this site from a foreseeable risk of serious harm. Asbestos related diseases are currently untreatable and claim the lives of an estimated 5,000 people per year in the UK.

“Anyone who worked on this site at this time, due to the lack of care taken by Mr Briggs, could possibly face a life shortening disease at some point over the next 30 years from an exposure which was totally preventable. This case sends a clear message to any individual or company that it does not pay to ignore known risks on site, especially to increase profits at the expense of people’s lives”.

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