It was reported in the Blackpool Gazette on 19 June 2020 that the owners of Blackpool’s South Pier refurbished and demolished part of an asbestos lined arcade, allowing visitors to walk through the building whilst the work was being undertaken.
The actions of the owners are even more shocking as it came to light they had obtained a £17,000 quote from a licensed asbestos removals company to remove the asbestos in a safe manner. The removal of asbestos must be carried out by a Health and Safety Executive licensed contractor. Instead, the company decided to save the money and avoid the loss of income from having to close the Pier for six days whilst the work was being undertaken and instructed three of it’s staff members to remove the asbestos themselves with nothing more than disposable bodysuits as protection.
Preston Crown Court heard that the asbestos was pulled away by hand and using a crowbar. The waste was placed into bin bags and a vacuum cleaner used to clean any dust that had accumulated on the carpet. The court heard that it eventually cost the company £140,000 to put the work right and the arcade had to be closed for six weeks. The Blackpool Pier Company pleaded guilty to various offences of failing to ensure the health and safety of employees, failing to ensure the health and safety of the public and allowing the release of asbestos into the environment. The company were fined £134,000 and ordered to pay £38,000 in costs.
This is a salutory lesson to those who think they can cut corners when removing asbestos. The initial quote of £17,000 is a fraction of what the company ultimately had to pay in fines and costs and to make the pier safe. Untold numbers of visitors and staff members have been put at potential risk of future injury after inhaling the deadly asbestos fibres. Mesothelioma, an incurable cancer caused through the inhalation of asbestos fibres is known to be caused by relatively low levels of asbestos exposure. The asbestos fibres can lay dormant in the lungs for decades before showing any signs of malignancy. Thankfully mesothelioma is still a relatively rare cancer and there are only approximately 3000 cases in the UK every year.
As a firm we are frequently contacted by workers who inform us their employers are cutting corners and asking them to remove asbestos. Many employees fear they will lose their job if they refuse to do what they are asked but are also worried about the long term affect of inhaling asbestos dust. This is something we may see more often as the country emerges from the Covid-19 lockdown and firms simply do not have the financial means to employ licensed contractors. However financial gain cannot be preferred to the safety of workers and the public at large and this case should serve as a reminder to anyone seeking to cut corners and reduce costs.
If you have been exposed to asbestos or diagnosed with an asbestos related condition please contact Steven Evans today on freephone 0800 294 3065 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for impartial, expert advice.