Council fined £66,000 for failing to manage asbestos risks

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A London council has been fined £66,000 and ordered to pay £16,862 in costs after it ignored the findings of an asbestos survey, causing workers to be exposed to asbestos fibres.

Waltham Forest Borough Council pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and a breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 in relation to its mismanagement of asbestos risks in the Town Hall basement.

Westminster Magistrates heard that an asbestos survey undertaken in 2002 identified the presence of the substance in the basement, but that the Council did not implement a plan to deal with the risks.

A further survey carried out in January 2012 identified that the problem of asbestos in the area had not been addressed. Unfortunately, in the decade between the two surveys, a number of Council employees and contractors were permitted to carry on working in the basement despite the risks.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) became involved in mid-2012 after a local resident had a request to see some Council documentation refused on the grounds the paperwork may be contaminated. The resident subsequently contacted the HSE’s Mythbuster Challenge Panel, which identified the matter as a genuine concern and referred it to local inspectors for further investigation.

Speaking after the Court hearing, HSE inspector Chris Tilley said the Council’s failure to manage asbestos risks over such a long period could have serious health consequences for workers.

“Asbestos-related disease has a long latency and it is impossible to ascertain what injury may have been caused in this case,” he said.

“But asbestos is a known and powerful carcinogen and owners or managers of non-domestic premises, such as councils, have a legal duty to manage the material in their buildings and have measures and controls in place to protect workers and the public from being exposed.”

BLS Asbestos has extensive experience of providing asbestos survey and removal services to the public sector and can help your organisation to deal with the risks the substance poses.

For more information, please call us on 01484 400558 or contact us via the website.

Published: 8th June 2015