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Hotel chain fined for asbestos risk

Date:
4 April 2013

A leading hotel chain has ordered to pay more than £200,000 in fines and costs after construction workers and guests were put at risk of asbestos exposure at a Kent hotel.

Cheshire-based Britannia Hotels Ltd failed to ensure a full asbestos assessment was undertaken before construction workers refurbished a wing of The Grand Burstin Hotel in Harbour Way, Folkestone, between February and July 2010.

Canterbury Crown Court heard (2/3 April) that an asbestos surveyor called to the site after work began discovered the widespread presence of asbestos in the eaves of the building. He also found asbestos on the second floor, which was likely to be linked to the removal of walls and ceilings as part of the refurbishment.

A licensed asbestos contractor had to be called in to remove the material and seal off the contaminated area to prevent fibres spreading to other parts of the hotel. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was also notified.

Due to the long latency period of asbestos-related illnesses, it is not yet known whether any construction workers or hotel guests were directly affected. Inhaling asbestos fibres can cause serious diseases such as lung cancer or lung scarring, but symptoms can take years to develop after exposure.

Britannia Hotels Ltd, of Hale Road, Cheshire, pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined a total of £160,000 and ordered to pay £40,051 in costs.

After the hearing, HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said:

"Britannia Hotels Ltd carried out refurbishment work without carrying out a full and proper asbestos survey before works got underway. The company’s failure to deal with the asbestos could have resulted in up to 22 workers being exposed to asbestos from the outset of the project until the end of July 2010.

"Although guests did not have direct access to the floors where asbestos was found, it is possible that the fibres may have spread into areas that were still open to them. The simple fact is that because of the company’s failures, both guests and workers have been put at risk, and they now face an uncertain future.

"This situation was wholly avoidable and I hope today’s prosecution also highlights the need to ensure that workers are given the appropriate training to ensure that asbestos is properly managed and dealt with."

For more information about working safely with asbestos visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/index.htm

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."
  3. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety."

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