Bolton Nightclub Owner Fined Over Asbestos Exposure
The Law Of... challenging unsafe work conditionsA nightclub owner in Bolton has been fined after admitting that he failed to carry out an asbestos survey when refurbishing a local venue.
Responding to the news of the nightclub owner's fine, Anthony Waddington
– Solicitor on Simpson Millar's Industrial Disease team
– warns of the dangers of dormant asbestos
Asbestos Exposure In Bolton
Manchester Magistrates' court heard that a local nightclub owner failed to call in an experienced contractor to manage the refurbishment of a nightclub in Bolton between 1 August and 12 August 2015, which could have left up to 20 workers exposed to asbestos
The nightclub in question was being refurbished ahead of an expected influx of university students for fresher's week, which could have seen a high footfall to the club.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) were first alerted to potential safety concerns at the nightclub in August 2015, when Bolton Council complained of unsafe construction works taking place throughout the site.
Upon inspection of practices at the construction site, a HSE inspector served three Prohibition Notices and two Improvement Notices.
The inspector also handed out a Notification of Contravention for the following misdemeanours:
- Allowing a foreseeable risk of asbestos exposure
- Failing to have a competent site manager
- Risks of falls from height
- Unsuitable welfare facilities
- Inadequate fire safety precautions
Asbestos Exposure Responsibility
As the owner of the site, and the worker's employer, the defendant at Manchester Magistrates' court had a duty to ensure that the area was free of asbestos, as well as any other potentially toxic materials.
Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, the 'dutyholder' must:
- Take reasonable steps to find out if a non-domestic premises holds any asbestos, if it does they then have to detail the amount of asbestos, its location, and the condition of the asbestos
- Assume that materials contain asbestos, unless it is clear that they do not
- Assess the risk of those on site being exposed to fibres from the materials identified
- Outline a risk management plan for any asbestos that is discovered
- Put the risk management plan into action and ensure that it is periodically reviewed and maintained
- Provide information on the location of harmful materials to anyone who is likely to disturb them
The dutyholder, which in this case is the nightclub proprietor, is normally the owner of the non-domestic premises; however it can also be an individual person or organisation that has clear responsibility for the maintenance of the premises, such as a tenant in the building.
In construction, it is widely held as common knowledge that an asbestos survey is required before work begins, however the defendant in this case did not adhere to this rule.
Danger Of Dormant Asbestos
The fines, which surmount to a fine of £5,720 and costs of £3,535, were allegedly handed out as a deterrent to any another businesses or individuals who were considering ignoring asbestos regulations to try and speed up their construction plans.
Commenting on the case, Anthony explains the continued risk of exposure from dormant asbestos:"This story is a sad but timely reminder that, despite bans coming into force in the UK in the mid 80s and late 90s prohibiting the use of asbestos, this deadly substance still poses a very real danger to the public's health even now in 2016.""Decades of use as a common construction material means that asbestos is still part of the fabric of our homes, schools, shops, workplaces, and even our nightclubs – worryingly it is likely that this will be the case for many decades to come.""One might be forgiven for believing that only those working in construction who come into direct contact with, or disturb, asbestos during refurbishment or demolition are at risk from exposure; in fact many victims are unaware that they have been exposed to asbestos until they are diagnosed with a related disease and even then they cannot pin point where they have been exposed, having never worked in construction or with asbestos.""The nature of asbestos is such that it breaks down with normal wear and tear causing hazardous dust and fibres to be present in the air or on surfaces in buildings where the asbestos is concealed from view. People can breathe in these fibres in everyday life without ever realising that they have come into contact with deadly asbestos fibres, this sadly means no one is safe from exposure.""The true consequences of the UK’s decades of use of asbestos will not be known for many years to come as the deadly fibres can lie dormant within a person’s lungs for as long as 30 years before causing a wide variety of diseases including asbestosis, pleural thickening and mesothelioma (a terminal cancer of the lungs).""In the sad scenario described in the article above those exposed to asbestos at this site will have to wait for up to 30 years to know whether their exposure to this deadly substance will yield terrible consequences for their health."