Two men have been fined after committing fraud by falsifying a record stating that a school in Abingdon had been properly cleaned of asbestos.
The deception was uncovered when engineer Trevor Benfield went to Our Lady’s Abingdon school to start plumbing work but could see that asbestos material had been left, putting him and others at risk of exposure to dangerous fibres.
The "unusual fraud” was confirmed by an internal investigation by one of the men’s employers using GPS tracking technology on the employee’s company van.
Tersus used GPS tracking and found that Richard Gray’s van had been driven to a service station at Junction 8 on the M40 and back to his home address on 25 July - not to the school site where the assessment was due to take place.
Richard Gray, an asbestos analyst, of Hoddesdon, Herts, and David Gray (no relation), of Botley, Oxford, a supervisor for a licensed asbestos contractor, were prosecuted at Oxford Magistrates’ Court on 17 August.
Richard Gray was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £1,000 in costs and David Gray was fined £1,000 with £250 costs after both pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act.
Health & Safety Executive Inspector Andrew Moore said: "This was an unusual fraud, the first of its type that I am aware of. It was only detected thanks to Mr Benfield’s knowledge and perseverance, and the use of GPS technology.
"It was also a serious fraud as it may have exposed other workers coming on to the school site to the very real dangers of inhalation of asbestos fibres.
"I can only have an educated guess at what motivated these two to collude in this fashion. For Ricky Gray, it was his last day at the company and it was a Sunday.
For David Gray it was perhaps also the temptation of finishing work early, as contractors have to wait for analysts to finish their assessment on site – and stay to put right anything that needs action.
"HSE takes exposure to asbestos very seriously. Currently 4,000 people die every year from asbestos-related disease and the onset of these debilitating diseases can occur many years after exposure. That is why there are clear rules and regulations governing its removal and site decontamination, and that is why HSE will prosecute those who flout the legislation."