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Unlicensed construction firm cleaned up asbestos at Norwich office block – with a vacuum cleaner

PUBLISHED: 15:11 06 November 2018 | UPDATED: 15:12 06 November 2018

The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.

The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.

Archant

A construction company has been hit with a fine for carrying out unlicensed asbestos cleaning work at a major Norwich office block.

The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.

Norwich-based Y Construction was refurbishing the Rose Lane Business Centre – now rebranded the Union Building – including a former kitchen and canteen in 2015, when the dangerous building material was discovered.

After an intervention by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), a survey was carried out which revealed asbestos debris across an area the size of a football pitch – which the unlicensed contractor proceeded to sweep up and vacuum with a vacuum cleaner.

Y Construction, of The Union Building, was found guilty at Norwich Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday of breaching three sections of the controld of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

The company, which is now in liquidation, was fined £90,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £7,184.04.

The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.The Union Building on Rose Lane in Norwich. Picture: Mark Shields.

The court heard that work on the project began in April 2015 and continued until early November of the same year.

An HSE investigation found the labourers employed by the contractor to carry out the demolition works were mostly vulnerable non-English speakers with limited understanding of English, little awareness of asbestos on site and no prior asbestos awareness training.

No demolition and refurbishment asbestos survey was put in place before the project started, though the HSE intervened to ensure one was carried out, which revealed the extent of the asbestos debris.

Despite the findings and the surveyor’s recommendations, Y Construction cleared the debris between October 1 and 6, 2015.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Kasia Urbaniak said: “The dangers associated with asbestos, including licensed asbestos, are well-known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from the HSE website.

“Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.”

Records at Companies House show that Y Construction appointed a voluntary liquidator in July 2017.

A statement issued by liquidator Jeffrey Brenner of B&C Associates showed that the company owed £1.428m to unsecured creditors, including £150,000 to HM Revenue and Customs.

An update report in August 2018 suggested that there would be insufficient funds to pay a dividend to those unsecured creditors.

The Union Building is a former Aviva office building built in the early 1970s and underwent a transformation to turn it into modern office space with 70,000 sq ft of space. It is also home to Norwich’s first rooftop bar and restaurant and as of early 2018 was fully occupied.

The Union Building has been approached for comment.

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