Asbestos fibres found lying in shop for 3 weeks costs timber firm £18,000
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has prosecuted a timber company for allowing the distribution of asbestos fibres in part of an antiques shop.
Cardiff Magistrates' Court heard that the fibres were left on the premises for 3 weeks after being spread by unqualified workers.
Exposure to asbestos fibres, for many years an industry-standard insulation material and fire retardant but now banned, has been proven to cause mesothelioma and other fatal cancers.
The court was told that, a national damp and timber repairs specialist, had been contracted to undertake work in the shop in July 2011.
The firm sent workers to the premises to survey and remove areas of the structure affected by damp and wood rot. However the workers, none of whom was trained in asbestos awareness or removal, failed to check if asbestos fibres were present.
The court also heard that The company did not have a license to remove or handle materials containing asbestos.
A worker removed asbestos insulation boards located in a back room of the shop and the ceiling was demolished, causing the disturbed asbestos fibres to spread.
Instead of properly disposing of the asbestos, or arranging with a qualified firm to do so, the workers swept the dust into bags and dumped them in a skip lorry, together with the insulation boards.
Identified as asbestos at a waste site, the material was returned by the company to the back yard of the antiques shop, after which the building's owners contacted the HSE. A firm licensed to remove asbestos then conducted a full environmental clean of the building.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Steve Richardson said if the company had provided its staff with proper information and training, the "entirely preventable" incident would not have occurred.
"The company had no procedures to check for the presence of asbestos and as a result, has put the health of its workers and the shop owners at risk of potentially fatal asbestos-related lung diseases."
Pleading guilty to 4 offences under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, the company was fined a total of £18,000 with £5,314 in costs.