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Greater Manchester firm fined £30k for lack of asbestos survey

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A Greater Manchester-based furnishing company was fined £30,000 after its failure to obtain an asbestos survey for its premises resulted in workers being exposed to asbestos fibres for five years.

Mansfield Soft Furnishings Ltd was prosecuted after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) inspector spotted what he believed to be sprayed asbestos in a poor condition in the roof of its premises in Meadowcroft Mill on Bury Road, Rochdale during a visit in June 2012.

The inspector issued an Improvement Notice after learning that company director David Mansfield had never organised an asbestos survey, despite the business having moved into the mill in September 2007 and employees having raised concerns that the ceiling of a mezzanine area used for storing foam may contain the substance.

A subsequent survey discovered that asbestos was present in the roof and that fibres were almost certainly spread throughout the rest of the building when workers dragged foam through the eaves and down to the workshop below.

The HSE served the company with a Prohibition Notice in July 2012 that prevented access to the building until it had been decontaminated by licensed asbestos contractors.

However, Mr Mansfield and a colleague breached that order just hours after it had been issued by entering the unit to remove £25,000 worth of furniture so it could be delivered to a client.

At a hearing at Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester on January 17th 2014, Mansfield Soft Furnishings Ltd pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £30,000.

Mr Mansfield, who was described by the judge as “reckless in the extreme” and criticised for exposing the company’s employees to “significant risk”, admitted a separate charge of deliberately breaching the Prohibition Notice and was fined £10,000.

The defendants were also ordered to pay a combined total of £20,000 in costs.

HSE inspector David Norton said Mansfield Soft Furnishings Ltd’s employees now faced the prospect of living with the possibility of developing a deadly lung disease as a result of their exposure to asbestos.

“The company should have arranged for an asbestos survey to be carried out before moving into the building, but it failed to do this even after some workers raised concerns,” he added. “This meant that employees were exposed to potentially-deadly asbestos fibres for nearly five years as pieces of foam were moved - disturbing the asbestos material - and then dropped to the floor below, releasing dust into the air.”

To find out more about asbestos surveys or to arrange for one to be carried out at your company’s premises, please contact BLS Asbestos.

Published: 20th January 2014