NE Scotland, Orkney & Shetland

Asbestos exposure concerns at Aberdeen sheltered housing complex

Emma Davis
Image caption Emma Davis said she felt forced to speak out

An Aberdeen sheltered housing manager fears staff, residents and visitors could have been put at risk by repeated exposure to asbestos.

Emma Davis told BBC Scotland News she decided to speak out after repairs to a laundry room at Bridge of Dee Court revealed the presence of asbestos.

She believes it could be the third time she has been exposed since 2018.

Operator Hanover Scotland said the asbestos was "low risk" and that it would be dealt with on Wednesday.

The company said health and safety had not been put at risk.

Disturbed asbestos can release a fine dust which can damage the lungs.

Image caption Asbestos was found in a laundry ceiling

Mrs Davis - who has now written to residents with her concerns - said: "I have not taken this course of action lightly but feel very strongly that I have no other option and that I have a duty to expose this."

The manager said there had been two previous asbestos incidents in 2018. Then water started coming through a refurbished laundry room ceiling in June this year, and plasterboard was cut away.

'Full investigation'

Mrs Davis said the hole had been awaiting repair for two months, and that it had emerged that the roof tiles opened for repairs contained asbestos.

She said: "Staff, visitors and residents have been put at risk.

"I'd like a full investigation to take place, and to ensure that this can never ever happen again. Once is bad enough, twice is terrible, three times is truly unbelievable."

She said: "The laundry ceiling remained untouched for over two months. I therefore began chasing up this repair last week.

"I began getting suspicious and concerned again that asbestos could still be present. I therefore checked Hanover's Asbestos Register, which to my horror stated that chrysotile asbestos was present in the laundry ceiling.

"I therefore phoned the health and safety officer in head office who told me he was sure there was no asbestos present due to the refurbishment.

"He did, however, suggest I contact the compliance officer which I did and was told that he was also sure asbestos had been removed but 'could not find anything definitive to confirm that' and he would therefore arrange for test of the laundry ceiling and surrounding area to be carried out."

'Safety paramount'

Mrs Davis added: "Samples for testing were taken. On Friday I was notified via email from Hanover's compliance officer that the test results had come through and chrysotile asbestos was present in the laundry ceiling. The email also asked me restrict access to the area.

"I felt physically sick.

"When I went down to lock the laundry room door I found that it doesn't have a lock so I took it upon myself to call an emergency joiner to fit a padlock. I remained on site, stopping residents from entering the laundry room and until the padlock had been fitted."

Image caption A laundry room was closed as a result of the discovery

Resident Shirley Wood told BBC Scotland: "I found the leak in the laundry room, I was there when it was all exposed - and now it's been exposed for more than two months.

"This is not the first time that they've found something in the building. But now this has happened and we're told it's asbestos - just not good enough."

Hanover Scotland said in a statement: "The safety of our residents is of paramount importance to us and I would like to reassure all of those at Bridge of Dee that at no point has their health or safety been put at risk.

"Our Bridge of Dee site has a fully compliant entry on our Asbestos Register and we rigorously follow all regulations and advice on these materials, including guidance that asbestos not be removed unless it has been damaged."

Specialist contractor

The statement added: "On 3 September, a member of staff alerted that damage caused by an emergency repair of a water leak in June had yet to be satisfactorily rectified and that they were concerned about the presence of asbestos.

"The contractor who conducted the initial repair had not informed Hanover of any asbestos at that time, so we immediately instructed them to revisit the site and advise as to its state, which they did the same morning.

"During that visit, they advised that the small corner ceiling section where the repair had been carried out had a textured coating and may contain asbestos. A further specialist contractor visited the site the following day, removed samples and sent them for laboratory testing."

Hanover Scotland said the test showed the damaged section of the ceiling contained chrysotile asbestos and that the risk level was considered "very low potential to release fibres" and "low risk - not likely to cause health risk in short term if removed intact".

The company said it was isolated to a very small area and that there was no asbestos elsewhere in the room.

A repair of the damaged corner is due to be carried out and the asbestos removed on Wednesday.

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