Contractor fined €100,000 for failure to conduct asbestos risk assessment
Breach occurred in relation to part of a Dublin city office building
Photograph: Matt Kavanagh
A building contractor has been fined €100,000 for failing to carry out an asbestos risk assessment during work on part of a Dublin city office building.
The breach occurred at Findlater House, Cathal Brugha Street, on June 23rd, 2016 while McAleer & Rushe UK Ltd was carrying out refurbishment work for its conversion into a hotel.
Dublin Circuit Criminal Court heard two asbestos surveys had been carried out on the site the previous year but the area involved had not been included as work had not been envisioned there at the time.
Asbestos had been previously located elsewhere in the building and had been compliantly removed by a specialist company using full body suits, respirator masks and extraction fans and filters.
A Health and Safety Authority inspector told a sentence hearing last month that asbestos was a known carcinogen which had been widely used in construction until a phased ban in Ireland between 1986 and 2000. Airborne dust particles may be inhaled into the lungs when the asbestos deteriorates or is broken.
Declan McLogan, a director, pleaded guilty on behalf of the company that the firm undertook work at Findlater House which would be liable to expose employees to dust from asbestos or materials containing asbestos in circumstances where there was a failure to carry out a risk assessment.
McAleer & Rushe UK Ltd, of George Street, London, has no previous convictions.
Sentencing on Monday, Judge Melanie Greally accepted that McAleer & Rushe enjoyed a strong reputation and had various certificates which had demonstrated a commitment to a healthy and safe environment for its staff.
“The company is committed to maintaining high standards of safety on its sites and has a well developed social conscience,” Judge Greally said.
She accepted that the breach was not motivated by cost saving but was rather caused by human error.
The judge said had the decision-maker on site had the necessary training the mistake may not have been made and described it as a most “serious breach” given the risk the workers were exposed to.
Judge Greally gave credit to McAleer & Rushe for its high level of co-operation, the remorse it has expressed and the seriousness of which it has regarded the case. She added that the company has an impressive commitment to safety and has experienced a low number of accidents on site.
She fined the company €100,000 and said that it must be paid within six months. Judge Greally also granted an order for costs by the State.
Defence counsel, Ronan Kennedy SC, said at the earlier hearing, that this was a once-off incident that was out of character for the company, which prides itself on its exemplary health and safety record. He submitted there had been a significant element of human error.