The recent prosecution and combined fines 1.27m of Balfour Beatty and two others for asbestos related offences highlights the importance of agreeing roles and responsibilities in relation to key risks on site. And then making sure they are actioned.

The prosecution followed the exposure of workers to asbestos during refurbishment works at a London school in 2012. An HSE investigation identified that although an asbestos survey had been completed, there were lots of caveats and disclaimers that were not checked and actioned by the consultant retained to manage the refurbishment project, the main contractor or their sub-contractor. This led to a worker lifting ceiling tiles in an area of potential exposure to asbestos.

After guilty pleas the consultant NPS London Ltd and the main contractor Balfour Beatty was fined 370K plus 32K costs and 500K plus 32K costs respectively. The contractor, Squibb, were fined 400K plus 175K cost after being found guilty at trial.

The significant fines for all three illustrate the overlapping responsibilities of parties involved in construction projects and the cost of not getting to grips with that. Crucially, any contractual apportionment of responsibility may have relevance in the context of a civil claim for damages but will have been of limited relevance in determining criminal liability.

 If this challenge resonates or you would like to understand your responsibilities further, please do get in touch.