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Town at risk from Asbestos

A roofing contractor showed "wilful disregard" for public safety when it spread asbestos fibres around a Leicestershire town while using pressurised water washers to clean roof panels on industrial units.

Hampshire-based Concept Roofing & Cladding Services Ltd was contracted to carry out repairs to a dozen industrial units in Bath Street, Market Harborough, between December 2008 and January 2009.

Leicester magistrates heard the problem was discovered when asbestos was found outside the units by a Leicestershire County Council health and safety consultant on 22 January.

The Health and Safety Executive, which brought the prosecution, told magistrates that the company used pressure washers to clean asbestos cement roofing panels, which blasted the harmful material into the environment.

When it became apparent what was happening, work was stopped immediately and local traders had to close for several months while a qualified asbestos removal company carried out a safe programme of removal causing major disruption in the town.

During the subsequent clean-up operation, traces of the material were found on walls, in drains and at a bus stop.

Concept Roofing & Cladding Services Ltd, of Venture House, East Street, Titchfield, Hampshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and was fined £12,000. The company was also ordered to pay costs of £22,375

HSE inspector Stephen Farthing said: "This company showed a wilful disregard for the safety of its employees and the general public.

"Concept Roofing & Cladding knew the roofing panels contained asbestos and should have known that the use of a pressure washer was entirely inappropriate.

"The actions of this company caused a great deal of worry and inconvenience for local people and business, some of whom had to leave their premises for a considerable amount of time.

"Yet the distress, inconvenience and cost of remedial action could have been easily avoided had the company taken sensible steps to ensure the right tools were used and the spread of potentially dangerous material was prevented."

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