February 23, 2019

Asbestos discovery delayed £110m Mears contract

Southwark Council delayed signing a £110 million repairs deal with contractor Mears after eight residents were exposed to asbestos while the firm was working under an interim contract.

Mears has also permanently removed a plumbing operative from working on the Southwark contract, after asbestos was displaced at two leasehold homes on 19 June this year.

The incident took place six days before a decision on the award of the council’s long-term repairs and maintenance contract was due to be made. The decision was put back by almost a month while both parties investigated what had gone wrong and why.

A report considered by the council’s cabinet on 16 July reveals that the plumber ‘did not give adequate consideration to the possible presence of asbestos within the dwellings, despite council-generated asbestos warning flags on the works order and the operative’s handheld computer’.

It added that a supervisor also ‘failed to identify or consider the material as asbestos’.

An investigation by Mears reveals that the plumber and supervisor had attended asbestos training at the end of 2012. It said ‘the operative had blatantly failed to follow his training and company procedures and put himself and the residents at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres’.

Two staff members have since been dismissed by Mears, following its investigations. A spokesperson said the incident ‘was caused by the actions of two rogue individuals’.

The residents were put up in a hotel by the council while their flats were decontaminated.

Southwark signed the contract last month after its investigation found ‘individual incompetence rather than corporate or structural failings within Mears’. Its report said it was ‘inexplicable that the operatives involved failed to recognise the material as asbestos’.


Asbestos discovery delayed £110m Mears contract

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