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Hefty fines follow asbestos failings

Two companies have been prosecuted after workers were exposed to potentially deadly asbestos fibres at a mill in Bolton.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Hazelwise Ltd and RH Property Management Ltd after finding dozens of damaged asbestos boards stacked up at Brownlow Mill during a visit on 20 October 2010.

Manchester Crown Court heard on Friday (24 August 2012) that neither company had put a plan in place to manage the asbestos in the mill on Tennyson Street, where several small businesses rent units.

HSE became aware of the issue when a contractor on the site raised concerns that asbestos insulation boards had been stripped out of unoccupied floors at the mill, releasing deadly asbestos fibres into the air.

Inspectors issued two prohibition notices banning the removal of tools and other items from four floors of the mill in case they had become contaminated with asbestos fibres, and preventing access to the floors.

They also found that asbestos was present in other parts of the mill, occupied by tenants, but nothing had been done to protect it and make sure it was safe.

Hazelwise Ltd, of Mauldeth Avenue in Chorlton, was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay £8,969 in prosecution costs. RH Property Management Ltd, of Greek Street in Stockport, was fined £15,000 and with costs of £11,011.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Philip Strickland said: "Workers at Brownlow Mill have been exposed to potentially deadly fibres because neither company did anything to find out where asbestos was on the site.

"It is a legal requirement for owners and letting agents of commercial properties to carry out an assessment as to whether asbestos is present in a building, and what action is needed to keep it safe.

"If employers don't take the risks from asbestos seriously, then thousands of people will continue to die in the UK every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres."

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