Site Manager instruct workers to remove asbestos without adequate protection

Workmen carrying out a refurbishment at a Devon pub were exposed to deadly asbestos dust and then asked by their site manager to remove it without adequate protection.

The incident happened at the Three Crowns pub in Chagford, Dartmoor in January 2010, when the refurbishment was being carried out for St Austell Breweries by Cowley's Building and Maintenance Ltd and its director, Christopher Reed.

Exeter Magistrates fined St Austell Breweries £5,000 and ordered them to pay £6,295 in costs in a prosecution brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Cowley's Building and Maintenance Ltd were fined £12,500 with £6,295 costs and Christopher Reed was fined £2,500 with costs of £2,000.

The court heard that the work took place without a suitable asbestos survey report which should have been provided by St Austell Breweries.

As the workmen, all employees of Cowley's, began removal of an internal wall they uncovered asbestos insulation boards inside. Reed, who was in charge of the site, arranged for a sample of the board to be tested by asbestos specialists but also asked the workers to pick-up the debris from the boards.

During the demolition of the wall and the clean-up, there was further disturbance and exposure of asbestos on the site.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector, Barry Trudgian, said: "Multiple failures on site led to significant risks of exposure to asbestos dust to the four workmen.

"Asbestos dust can cause fatal lung diseases and the dangers are well known in the industry. On average, 20 tradesmen die every week from asbestos related diseases.

"As the owners of the site, St Austell Brewery should have provided a full and thorough assessment of the possible presence of asbestos at the Three Crowns.

"Once the asbestos boards were found, the site manager should have stopped the demolition work and reduced the risk of exposure by providing the workmen with a safe system of remedial measures.

"All those involved in refurbishment or demolitions must be fully aware of their responsibilities for workers' safety when carrying out their work. This should include following a safe decontamination process, which, depending on severity, could include use of a mask, safe disposal of contaminated clothing and taking a shower."

Further information on working safely with asbestos can be found on the HSE website at

St Austell Brewery Company Ltd of Trevarthian Road, St Austell pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 4(3) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was fined £5,000.

Cowley's Building and Maintenance Ltd of Queen Street, Colyton pleaded guilty to a breach of Regulation 6(1)(a) of the same regulations and was fined £5,000. The company also pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1)(a) and was fined £7,500.

Christopher Reed, of Higher Holcombe Road, Teignmouth, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was fined £2,500.