Builders’ merchant Jewson fined £400,000 over asbestos failures in Middlesbrough

Environmental Health officers from the council visited the Jewson branch in Brewsdale Road, North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, in October 2019 amid concerns about damaged materials that contained asbestos. Credit: Google

National builders’ merchant Jewson has been fined £400,000 over a failure to manage asbestos at one of its branches.

The firm, which has 600 outlets across the UK, was in court this week following what Middlesbrough Council called a “string of lapses” that could have put lives at risk.

Its owners have apologised and said “robust” measures are now in place.

Environmental Health officers from the council visited the branch in Brewsdale Road, North Ormesby, Middlesbrough, in October 2019 amid concerns about damaged materials that contained asbestos.

Teesside Crown Court was told that an inspection revealed there were several damaged materials and asbestos fibres had been released.

Inquiries found that, over the previous 15 years, despite several surveys being carried out, there had been a significant failure to properly inspect and manage asbestos at the premises.

The parent company was fined £400,000 and ordered to pay £9,664 costs when it was sentenced on Tuesday.

The reports found that the company that owns the premises – Stark Building Materials UK Ltd, formerly known as Saint-Gobain Distribution Ltd trading as Jewson – was aware of the risks presented by asbestos but that no action was taken to prevent or reduce the exposure and spread of asbestos from the premises.

After the hearing, Judith Hedgley, Middlesbrough Council’s head of public protection, said: “The management of the Jewson site in Middlesbrough had, over a prolonged period, failed in their responsibility to protect their workers and visitors from the risks associated with exposure to asbestos.

“It is not possible to say for certain if anyone in particular has been exposed to asbestos or if they are likely to experience any health effects – however, from the findings of the investigation we can say that overall the risks are very low.”

At the first hearing, Stark Building Materials UK Ltd pleaded guilty to a single charge of failing to protect the health and safety of persons not in its employment, including employees of Jewson working at the premises, members of the public, and contract workers, by failing to effectively manage asbestos.

After the case, Middlesbrough Mayor Chris Cooke, the council’s executive member for public protection, said: “Asbestos has been a health concern for many years and kills around 5,000 workers each year from past exposure.

“The very substantial fine imposed on Stark Building Materials UK Ltd sends out a clear message to employers and building owners that they must identify where asbestos is in their premises and put measures in place to manage it so that no-one’s health is put at risk.”

A Stark spokeswoman said: “We accept the ruling of the court and the fine received, and apologise again to all concerned.

“Shortly after the events that led to this prosecution, which occurred in a period ending in 2019, the business completely reconfigured the system for managing asbestos in the workplace, introducing a comprehensive digital tracking and monitoring process.

“In addition, earlier this year, we conducted a further review of our processes and procedures – both for this site and across our estate – and are confident that the solutions put in place are now as robust as they should be.”

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