Visitors to a Folkestone hotel have been exposed to the risk of inhaling asbestos dust during a refurbishment work. Refurbishment work was being carried out in one of the wings of the Britannia Grand Burstin, in the Harbour, between February and July 2010.
Whilst the work was ongoing, the hotel’s restaurant remained open, despite company bosses knowing that potentially lethal asbestos was present.
Britannia Hotels, who own 35 hotels in the UK, have been fined £160,000 after admitting to breaching asbestos safety regulations.
Instead of using specialist firms to dispose of the asbestos, bosses used in-house staff who were inexperienced and had been given no specialist training to recognise the presence of asbestos.
Judge Simon James was told at Canterbury Crown Court that before the work was started, the company had ordered an asbestos report that indicated the possibility of asbestos within the structure. However, Britannia failed to ask for a more detailed investigation into the risks before ordering work to start on building 53 new bedrooms. A number of weeks later asbestos was discovered and experts were contracted in to deal with the hazard – by which time workers and diners had been exposed to a possible risk of inhaling asbestos particles.
Mark Balysz, for the Health and Safety Executive, told the court, “This prosecution flows from an investigation and possible exposure of asbestos to members of the public and this hotel. Throughout the construction works, the restaurant, which is located on the ground floor, remained in use and therefore the lobby area was shared by guests and construction workers. Breathing in asbestos dust can cause serious damage to the lungs and cause cancer. There is no known cure for asbestos related diseases. The more dust you inhale the greater risk there is. If you carry out work in a building and that works is one for refubishment then it is not good enough just to look at the exterior of the building and a full asbestos survey should be carried out”
The 22 strong workforce which carried out the work included 6 labourers, 15 joiners and a construction site manager. Work began in February and in the June part of a wall in a room was removed and the room was sealed when concerns were raised it might contain asbestos.
Judge James said “This work was commissioned in the knowledge that a survey had identified asbestos and the company had before commencement of this work. The risks poses by asbestos are well known with its potentially fatal consequences of even a limited amount of exposure was well known in the construction industry for some considerable time”
(Article taken from: www.asbestosinsure.co.uk/news)