The demolition of a 1960s factory to build 180 new homes.

In 2017 a medium sized property developer purchased the site.

The original factory was built in the early 60s in the midlands, compromising of one large main building, two smaller buildings and several gate houses.

The site had been derelict for many years and the developer planned to raze the old factory to the ground to make way for the new housing estate.

They appointed a principal contractor to run and manage the site.

The Details

The principal contractor had the site surveyed before the demolition could begin, and it was found to have asbestos insulation.

The site office was established, and the site secured before any of the work could begin. The principal contractors’ sites always operated a safe system of work by way of a permit system.

Before the demolition could begin the asbestos would have to be removed so the principle contractor brought in a specialist asbestos removal company. All their credentials were checked, and the work began. Midway through the job the safety manager arrived on site on a Saturday morning and noticed there were more contractors removing the asbestos than had originally provided credentials. He immediately stopped the job to ask where these extra men had come from and to ensure they were qualified. The removal company insisted they were, and the following day provided the credentials for the extra staff. The asbestos removal job was continued to completion, demolition continued and the sited cleared.

The build on the site began and the project progressed as planned.

Halfway through the build the site was visited by the environmental health and HSE, who asked to see the asbestos removal companies’ credentials. The safety manager had taken copies and provided the permits for the work.

Everything on the surface appeared correct so the  reason for the visit by the officials was queried.

On further consultation with the HSE and Environmental Health, it was revealed that the removed asbestos had been discovered in a storage unit and traced back to the site.

The original asbestos removal company had sub-contracted the work to another removal company.

When the safety manager had checked the original companies’ credentials, he contacted the training company and the medical providers and verified all the credentials were valid and in date. The extra staff he encountered on the Saturday had details that all looked them same as those he’d already had verified, so no further verification process was followed.

Only one of the 14 extra staff had a medical and was trained in the removal of asbestos. The company owner had scanned in his credentials and changed the details to match those of his contractors working for him – they were also responsible for leaving the removed asbestos in the storage unit.  

The principal contractor was prosecuted by the HSE for not using a licensed removal company and also had to pay for the removal clean up and proper disposal of the asbestos. Fines and clean-up charges totalled more than £800k, and ultimately the owner of the second asbestos company spent 18 months in jail.

The Solution

If the principal contractor had been using the V Site Pass system, the change in removal company and the fraudulent qualifications would have been identified the minute they signed onto the permit.

This would have highlighted the change to the primary contractor who could have stopped the work immediately before the damage was done.