A HOUSEBUILDING company has been told to pay out more than £20,000 after two contractors were exposed to possibly lethal asbestos.
Huddersfield magistrates heard yesterday that Conroy Brook Developments, of New Mill Road, Brockholes, failed to obtain a full specialist survey on a site it had bought.
The firm then employed demolition contractors who were not fully aware of the site's history.
Two contractors were exposed to lethal brown asbestos, said Mrs Justine Lee, prosecuting for the Health and Safety Executive. She said the material was considered more dangerous than white asbestos as the fibres could penetrate more deeply into the lungs.
Asbestos was known to cause cancer and two men were now left wondering if they had contracted a terminal disease, she added.
Mrs Lee said an HSE inspector made a routine call at the former JCT 600 car showroom and service centre in Somerset Road, Almondbury, last September 10.
The inspector was told there was no asbestos survey of the site available. Then, on making further inquiries, the inspector found Conroy Brook had failed to obtain a proper survey.
A survey had been done by the sellers, JCT 600, but this had not been handed to Conroy Brook, as JCT 600 had no legal obligation to do so.
Mrs Lee said Conroy Brook had a duty to obtain the survey before allowing the demolition work to be done.
She said that when the contractor found asbestos stickers on the site he was told on the phone the substance was only in cement sheets on the roof.
But further investigations found asbestos on two other sites, in ceiling tiles.
Conroy Brook pleaded guilty to three charges under the Health and Safety At Work Act and Construction, Design and Management Regulations.
It was fined £14,000 for the health and safety charges and £4,000 on other charges.
The firm was also ordered to pay £2,395 costs.
Mr Adrian Beever, for the company, said it had a previously unblemished health and safety record.
It was the first time in 35 years of trading that it had faced a prosecution of any kind and it had an excellent local reputation.
He added: "This was very much a one off, when events conspired against the defendant."
Mr Beever said that when the company bought the site last June it had a comprehensive environmental report which failed to highlight the hazards of asbestos in the building other than on the roof.
The company took the report at face value and thought it was acceptable.
He said the company's health and safety consultant for many years left the company the month before work started and a planning supervisor was on holiday.
He said it was the first time in the company's history that it had no health and safety consultant.
Mr Beever said that fortunately only two people had been exposed to asbestos over a limited period of time and only two areas of the building were found to contain asbestos.
After them incident the company had immediately appointed a new consultant.
It had also carried out a full environmental clearance of the site, said Mr Beever.