Asbestos causes a headache for constructor and neighbouring businesses

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Asbestos hit the headlines once again this week when it brought a construction project grinding to a halt, closed off a town centre road and disrupted nearby businesses.

The Stoke Sentinel has published an article sharing the frustrations of businesses in Piccadilly Arcade in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, who were unable to access their parking spaces or service access after a neighbouring building in Brunswick Street was fenced off due to asbestos concerns.

The building in question housed a shop until 2019 and the former retail unit is in the process of being renovated and converted into 12 flats.

An inspector from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the site last week and a spokesman for the organisation told the newspaper that the duty holder was served with a prohibition notice to prevent further work.

The HSE spokesman added: “They were also advised to engage a licensed asbestos removal contractor to carry out a clean-up of the material.

“We are awaiting confirmation of the appointment of a licensed contractor to continue the refurbishment work.

“We have advised that the area should remain fenced off in order to prevent people from coming into contact with materials containing asbestos.”

This has left Brunswick Street blocked off since last week, with access to the private car park at the rear of the building also being affected. As a result, businesses in Piccadilly Arcade have lost parking spaces and their service access – with no indication as to when the situation will be resolved.

We have every sympathy for the nearby businesses which have been affected by the cordon but the HSE has to take the necessary steps to ensure that the asbestos does not put anyone’s life at risk.

To help building clients and constructors avoid potential problems with asbestos we offer a range of Asbestos Surveys including Asbestos Management Surveys, Asbestos Refurbishment Surveys and Asbestos Demolition Surveys.

Each survey is tailored to the work that is due to take place. So, for example, an Asbestos Refurbishment Survey is used to locate and describe, as far as possible, all asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) within a building or part of a building. By their nature, these types of asbestos surveys are intrusive and, to a degree, destructive. These surveys are also undertaken in situations where destructive maintenance activities are required such as during boiler and heating upgrade works. Our surveyors use intrusive surveying techniques to inspect all areas of your building where required and these surveys must be undertaken whilst the areas to be surveyed are unoccupied.

Within three working days, our clients receive a report about their Asbestos Refurbishment Survey but faster times are available, including a same day option.

All our asbestos surveys give clients free access to their own live, secure and encrypted, asbestos portal which provides 24/7 access to their asbestos data and reports.

You need an Asbestos Refurbishment Survey prior to any intrusive building works of any nature being carried out where insufficient asbestos information is available. This is applicable to any building constructed before 2000. Where asbestos information is incomplete then asbestos is presumed to be present until there is evidence that it is not.

The aim of such surveys is to keep workers and future users of the site safe and to prevent construction firms and clients from potentially disturbing asbestos and risk facing prosecution, fines and even custodial sentences.

Our hope now is that we won’t see an increase in incidents like this one over the coming months and years. You may remember that last month we published a blog called ‘Will Planning Reform Put More People at Risk from Asbestos?’ in which we raised concerns about new planning reforms which mean a wider range of commercial properties can now be converted into flats. In our blog we highlighted that the reality is that many of the units that are now fair game for developers who want to turn them into flats are likely to contain asbestos.

The danger with converting more commercial properties into homes is that this type of work is very disruptive to the fabric of the building. If the building contains asbestos it is highly likely that it will be disturbed – potentially putting lives at risk – unless the developer has an Asbestos Refurbishment Survey carried out prior to any work starting on site.

Once again, we would call on planning authorities to require developers to undertake Asbestos Refurbishment Surveys before work on conversions begin to protect both those working on site and those who will one day move into the newly created homes.

Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us

Ian Stone

I am based out of our Northampton office but regularly travel to meet with new and existing clients. I have assisted thousands of clients over the years on varying-sized projects, several have been schemes totalling over one million pounds spent purely on asbestos. Together with Neil Munro, I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I am Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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