Failure to carry out an asbestos survey costs Manchester hostel £34,000
Hatters Hostel in Manchester have been hit with a £34,000 court bill after they failed to carry out an asbestos refurbishment survey, sending workers into an “asbestos minefield”.
In the hearing at Manchester Crown Court, it was revealed that the hostel failed to arrange an asbestos survey prior to starting work on a refurbishment project in the basement of the 19th Century building.
The renovation involved workers from six different companies, and had been underway for eight months by the time the health and safety breach was discovered during an unannounced visit from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to inspect the ongoing refurbishment works.
Asbestos was found in fire retardant paint on a 20 sq m area of the basement that had yet to be stripped out. If the paint had been disturbed, workers would have been exposed to harmful asbestos fibres. There is no way to know if workers were exposed to asbestos in the three walls that had already been renovated.
The prosecution, addressing the failure to carry out a survey, stated: “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.”
Hatters Hostel were fined £24,000 (along with £10,200 in court fees) for failing to carry out the necessary risk assessments and potentially putting workers in danger.
After the case, a representative from the HSE said that the company had “completely failed in their duty to protect their workers, subcontractors and visitors to this site from harm”.
The HSE representative went on to say: “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 Ltd and Hatters Taverns Ltd 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.”