The Directors of Hatters Hostel Ltd in Manchester’s Northern Quarter have received an asbestos fine after putting construction workers at risk over asbestos.
They have been ordered to pay an asbestos fine and court costs totaling over £44,000.
An asbestos survey should have been carried out in the basement of the building before refurb works commenced.
But the company failed to have a survey arranged, therefore putting workers at risk of being exposed to asbestos.
It was only a random health and safety inspection on the building that discovered the presence of asbestos.
This discovery was made some eight months into the refurb works.
By then, construction workers from six different companies had been working on the project.
Although at this stage, it isn’t known for sure if any of the workers were exposed to asbestos.
At the time of the random inspection, investigators found no asbestos on the three walls which had just been renovated.
But that’s not to say that there had never been any, as it could have been discarded of during the course of the renovation works.
However, asbestos was discovered on a 20 sq m section which was left untouched.
The asbestos was found within textured fire retardant paint.
This wouldn’t pose a problem if left untouched, but if the area was disturbed as part of the renovation works, then the health of workers would be at risk.
Asbestos exposure leads to serious health implications years after the initial exposure, including asbestosis and mesothelioma.
The case was heard in Manchester Crown Court.
Judge Jinder Singh Boora said that Hatters Hostel’s health and safety record, apart from this instance, was otherwise “impeccable”.
Although he further commented that an asbestos survey should have been conducted due to the risks involved.
Hatters Hostel Ltd subsequently admitted to breaching Health and Safety regulations in their failure to carry out an asbestos survey on the property.
They received an asbestos fine of £34,000 and were also ordered to pay court costs of £10,200.
Judge Jinder said of the case, “It’s absolutely essential for companies to perform risk assessments. What’s even more important is if the risk assessment relates to risk which, if it manifests, will lead to either serious injury or death. Asbestos is a killer. If one contracts asbestosis or mesothelioma, death is almost inevitable.”
Prosecutor, Joseph Hart, said, “The workers working on that basement are sent into an environment where there are potential areas of asbestos, just as a soldier is sent into a minefield without a map.”
“The survey would have provided a map as to where there is asbestos. It’s such an obvious duty to have one when the risks of asbestos are so plainly known within the industry. It’s a critical failing – it’s a 19th Century building, almost inevitably there was going to be some asbestos. We don’t know how many workers were exposed, it could have been two people who stripped out the whole of the basement over the course of a year, or more likely a large number of people in a short period of time.”
The error came about as the Directors wrongly assumed that a subcontractor managing the project for the first few weeks, Concrete Juice, had arranged an asbestos survey.
Matt Greenly, HSE inspector, said after the case, “Both Hatters Hostel and Hatters Taverns, which are run by the same family, have completely failed in their duty to protect their workers, subcontractors and visitors to this site from harm. Asbestos related diseases are currently untreatable and claim the lives of an estimated 4,000 people per year in the UK.”
“The requirement to have a suitable asbestos survey is clear and well known throughout the construction industry. Only by knowing if asbestos is present in any building before works commence can a contractor ensure that people working on their site are not exposed to these deadly fibers.”
“The cost of an asbestos survey is not great but the legacy facing anyone who worked on this site is immeasurable. They now have to live with the realisation that due to the lack of care taken by Hatters Hostel Limited and Hatters Taverns Limited they may face a life shortening disease at some point over the next 30+ years from an exposure which was totally preventable. This case sends a clear message to any company that it does not pay to ignore well known risks on site.”
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