SBHA under fire over West Port asbestos

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SCOTTISH Borders Housing Association is coming under increasing pressure to release reports into an incidence of asbestos exposure which is alleged to have occurred when they renovated their offices in the town’s West Port.

Acting on behalf of the employees involved on the job back in 2007 – to convert an empty ground-floor flat in an occupied block – the union Unite has this week submitted a request to SBHA under Freedom of Information legislation to make details available.

An SBHA source, who does not wish to be named, said it had been a “dirty, dusty job” that had lasted for about a fortnight until the work was closed down and a specialist firm brought in with decontamination equipment. It is claimed that a report – later revised – on asbestos contamination at the site was compiled by a Selkirk-based firm called Eco Safety which, at the time, was acting as health and safety adviser to SBHA.

“These guys [the SBHA employees] had no specialist equipment and were going home at night to their wives and kids, covered in asbestos dust, looking like snowmen,” said the source. “It is little wonder that concerns have been raised about the long-term effects of such exposure to them and their families.”

It is understood one of the workmen involved in the West Port job has made 13 unsuccessful requests to see the reports. Unite Borders branch secretary George Wilson stated in a letter to SBHA chief executive Julia Mulloy: “To date, the current management has, in our opinion, unprofessionally and unreasonably refused to allow us access to this information, so we can have the matter independently assessed and verified.”

Mrs Mulloy commented: “We plan to work closely with the union and staff over the next couple of weeks to establish the details of individual accounts and to whom concerns have been reported, and we will respond to the verbal request [regarding the reports] in due course.”