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Hostel hit with £44k court bill for lack of asbestos survey
A 'minefield' of asbestos risk confronted construction workers
at a Northern Quarter hostel, a health and safety prosecution has
Directors of Hatters Hostel Ltd, the company behind Hatters
Hostel on Newton Street, have been hit with fines and court costs
of over £44,000.
Manchester Crown Court heard workers could have been exposed to
the harmful substance - which causes life-threatening injury years
afterwards - after a failure to commission an asbestos survey
before a basement refurbishment project began in the 19th Century
The Health and Safety breach was discovered by a random health
and safety inspection at the former bowler hat factory, where the
basement was being converted into a 'tavern'.
By then, the work had been underway for eight months and
involved workers from six firms.
It is not known if any workers were exposed to asbestos at
No asbestos was found on the three walls which had been
renovated at the time of the inspection - and it's impossible to
say if there was any because the potential evidence was destroyed
by the project.
But asbestos was found on a 20 sq m section which had not yet
been stripped out, in the form of fire retardant textured paint. If
that paint had been disturbed, workers would have been at risk of
contracting the lethal conditions asbestosis and mesothelioma years
down the line.
A judge hearing the case said Hatters' health and safety record
was otherwise "impeccable", but added that asbestos was "a killer"
and assessments should have been carried out.
Opening the case against them at Manchester Crown Court,
prosecutor Joseph Hart said: "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
"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. We don't know how many workers were exposed, it could
have been two people who stripped out the whole of the basement
over the course of a year, or more likely a large number of people
in a short period of time."
Sentencing, Judge Jinder Singh Boora said there was no evidence
"a large number of workers" were exposed or that any members of the
public were exposed, adding that the company's health and safety
record was otherwise "impeccable".
He added: "It's absolutely essential for companies to perform
risk assessments. What's even more important is if the risk
assessment relates to risk which, if it manifests, will lead to
either serious injury or death. Asbestos is a killer. If one
contracts asbestosis or mesothelioma, death is almost
HSE inspector Matt Greenly said after the case: "The requirement to have a suitable asbestos survey
is clear and well known throughout the construction industry. Only
by knowing if asbestos is present in any building before works
commence can a contractor ensure that people working on their site
are not exposed to these deadly fibres.
"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 Limited and Hatters Taverns Limited 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."
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