Demolition firm heavily fined after asbestos exposure

Written by: Emma Costin - Director of Complex Personal Injury
Dated: 21/03/2012

A court has heard how the lives of hundreds of Lake District residents and workers were risked when asbestos was disturbed during a factory demolition.

Following prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the contracting company was fined nearly £11,000 by Kendal Magistrates' Court after the demolition firm knocked down a former photography factory without accounting for the presence of asbestos.

The court was told that, before starting its work between August and September 2011, the contractor received a site owners' report confirming there were 166 sqm of asbestos ceiling tiles at the premises.

However the company, which is not licensed to dispose of asbestos, failed to instruct a licensed contractor to safely remove the tiles. The demolition caused a release into the air of hazardous fibres, risking many workers and local residents with asbestos exposure.

Until the 1980s, asbestos was commonly used in the building trade for insulation. The material becomes dangerous only if is disturbed enough to release fibres into the air.

Inhaled fibres can enter the lungs or digestive tract and lead to mesothelioma and other cancers. Symptoms often do not appear for many years.

The company was accused of 3 breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006: for removing asbestos without a license, exposing workers to asbestos fibres, and allowing the fibres to spread to neighbouring areas.

Pleading guilty, the firm was fined £10,800 with £3,638.95 costs.

Allen Shute, the HSE investigating inspector, said after the hearing that the company had been "cutting corners" and putting lives at danger by not using a licensed contractor to safely dispose of the asbestos.

"Several houses back onto the site of the factory so local residents were also put at risk," said Mr Shute. "Luckily the level of their exposure to asbestos fibres is likely to have been relatively low.

"However, the workers on the site will now have to live with the knowledge that they may develop a deadly asbestos-related disease in the years to come because of the actions of this company."

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