Minshull Street Crown Court in Manchester has fined Mansfield Soft Furnishings Ltd, and their company director David Mansfield, a total of £40,000 after they exposed their employees to potentially deadly asbestos fibres for nearly five years.
Mansfield Soft Furnishings Ltd is a Rochdale based re-upholstery firm which refurbishes furniture for pubs, restaurants and hotels. In September 2007, the company moved into a unit in Meadowcroft Mill on Bury Road in Rochdale and it later emerged that the roof in the unit contained asbestos. Workers were using the beams in the roof for storage of foam, which when it was dragged through the area, caused fine layers of asbestos dust to be released into the air.
The court heard that despite employees previously raising concerns that the roof may contain asbestos, Mansfield had never arranged for an asbestos survey to be carried out. However, during a visit to the premises by a Health & Safety Executive (HSE) inspector on a separate issue in June 2012, it was noticed the material on the roof of the mezzanine looked similar to sprayed asbestos and was in a poor condition and as a result, an Improvement Notice was issued.
When a survey was eventually completed, it revealed that asbestos was present in the roof, and fibres were likely to have been spread throughout the building as the foam was dragged through the roof beams and the workshop.
A Prohibition Notice was served on the company by the HSE on 12 July 2012, but this was breached by Mr Mansfield and another worker when they re-entered the building on the same day.
Mansfield Soft Furnishings Ltd was fined £30,000 after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health & Safety at Work etc Act 1974. Mr Mansfield was fined £10,000 after admitting that he deliberately breached the Prohibition Notice.
Both parties were also ordered to pay joint costs of £20,000.
Around 4,000 people die every year as a result of breathing in asbestos fibres, making it the biggest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK.
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