Five workers who were refitting a shop in the Manchester Arndale Centre have been exposed to potentially lethal asbestos fibres.
Eastern Regional Shopfitters Ltd. have been prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for not protecting the health of it’s employees. The firm had been given a contract to refit a shop in the popular shopping centre.
The HSE claimed that the company ignored a report which stated that asbestos was present in ceiling panels of the building. Instead they let two employees spend 5 days tearing out the shop fittings before the workers realised that asbestos was present. As well as these two people, three management staff were also exposed to asbestos fibres during checks and supervision of the work.
The firm was fined £4,000 for breaking Control of Asbestos Regulations and were also forced to pay legal costs.
A spokesperson for the HSE stated that work could have been done safely if the firm had informed its staff of the presence of asbestos. Asbestos is dangerous when disturbed and fibres are released into the air. The panels could have been sealed or removed by professional asbestos specialists quite easily.
The effects of asbestos exposure can take years to develop but are extremely serious if they do. 4,000 people die in the UK every year from asbestos related cancers. If the workers became ill in the future, they would be able to make an asbestos claim for compensation from the company’s insurance company.