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Cheapskate project manager in asbestos scare

A building owner and a project manager tried to remove asbestos at one tenth of the cost during a refurbishment job by hiring a general builder rather than a specialist contractor.

Both firms and the hapless builder have been hit with fines after the building in Birmingham was found to be riddled with deadly asbestos fibres after a vacuum was used to try and remove them.

Health and Safety Executive inspectors uncovered a series of failings during the refurbishment of 114-116 Colmore Row.

Birmingham Magistrates' Court heard how building owners Evanacre Colmore Row Ltd and project managers Marchment Consulting hired builder Roland Morewood to carry out work over the weekend of 29 January 2010.

When lift engineers arrived, they found pieces of asbestos insulating board spread around the lift shaft area and refused to carry on working.

HSE inspectors stopped all workers from going into the building until it had been decontaminated.

Air tests taken on several floors of the premises revealed significantly high levels of asbestos fibres, which were also found in several vacuum cleaners.

Asbestos insulating board was found stored in Morewood's van, which itself was heavily contaminated with asbestos fibres in the air. By law it should have been disposed of by a licensed contractor.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE principal inspector Richard Lockwood said: "Evanacre Colmore Row had an asbestos survey which clearly showed that asbestos was present in the lift.

"Marchment Consulting, which has expertise in building work, should have known how to deal with asbestos and materials containing its fibres in refurbishment projects.

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