Asbestos Insulation boards left stacked up on walls of mill…
Two companies in Bolton have been prosecuted by the HSE after an investigation revealed that they exposed their employees to the potentially fatal long-term effects of asbestos fibres.
The decision to prosecute the companies was taking after HSE officials discovered several damaged asbestos boards at Brownlow Mill on 20 October 2010. They had been alerted to the asbestos threat in the mill after a contractor who visited the site noticed that asbestos insulation boards had been ripped from the floors of the mall and left stacked up on the walls.
Manchester Crown Court heard that both the companies charged by the HSE had failed to produce evidence of any kind of plan to manage and safely remove asbestos from their premises.
HSE Inspectors decided to issued two Prohibition Notices after visiting the site which banned the removal of any kind of equipment or tools from the mill in case they had become contaminated with asbestos fibres. Several small businesses are in the proximity of the mill so an added safety measure was taken to prevent access to the mill until the asbestos was safely removed.
The court was also told that although the letting agent for the property had raised the issue of the need to undertake an asbestos assessment in 2006, no further action was taken. The owner of the mill was also negligent insofar as they never arranged for an asbestos survey to be carried out.
Both companies pleaded guilty to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to protect the safety of the employees under their charge. The mill owner was also in breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 by failing to properly assess and account for the potential risks from asbestos exposure at the site.
The mill owner was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £8,969 in prosecution costs while the letting agent was fined £15,000 and with costs of £11,011.
HSE Inspector Philip Strickland spoke after the hearing:
“Workers at the mill have been exposed to potentially deadly fibres because neither company did anything to find out where asbestos was on the site.
“It is a legal requirement for owners and letting agents of commercial properties to carry out an assessment as to whether asbestos is present in a building, and what action is needed to keep it safe.
“If employers don’t take the risks from asbestos seriously, then thousands of people will continue to die in the UK every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres.”
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