A number of employees working at a site in Poole were exposed to asbestos during a refurbishment project, a court on the south coast has been told.
Dale Collins, leading the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) prosecution of MJC Decorating and Refurbishing, told Bournemouth Magistrates' Court that the firm was aware of a survey that showed asbestos was present at Sentinel House while 18 members of staff were working there, reports the Bournemouth Echo.
An expert on the issue of asbestos was called in and confirmed there was "widespread" contamination of the building. This eventually led to the site being closed in July 2009, but only after the employees had been exposed to the material.
The HSE is adamant that asbestos remains the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. As such, it is no surprise to see such stringent measures in place to ensure people cannot be exposed to it and one of the best ideas is to kit out workers with the very best respiratory equipment.
In the case in Poole, Mr Collins suggested the workmen had not been given suitable masks to ensure their safety and prevent asbestos infecting their respiratory systems. He explained the employees had told how it had been "difficult to breathe" at the site.
The firm is facing three charges based on the identification, prevention and duty to reduce asbestos. District judge Roger House has confirmed the case must be moved to the crown court for sentencing, emphasising just how seriously asbestos is taken by the authorities.
Acting in mitigation, James Ageros had suggested the company's track record had been positive, as it has never before faced charges or been found to have made a breach of safety at the sites it has worked on.
Firms working in a range of industries need to keep an eye on asbestos, first by protecting their staff if there is a possibility it may be present and also by acting fast to identify any threats that might exist in buildings they utilise.