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MAJOR UK RETAILER AND CDM CLIENT PROSECUTED

Dozens of construction workers involved in asbestos scare at store

Retailer Arcadia Group Ltd and shopfitters Vincents (Shopfitters) Ltd have been prosecuted after construction workers were exposed to asbestos fibres at a Topshop store in Liverpool as they removed air conditioning, sprinklers and other equipment next to ceiling beams coated with sprayed asbestos.

Attempts were made to seal off access when the sprayed asbestos was disturbed. However, work was allowed to continue elsewhere in the six-story building. Some 45 construction workers were asked to stop work on 20 June 2008 after a contractor alerted HSE that the contamination had spread outside the sealed area.

Licensed contractor should have been used

Vincents (Shopfitters) Ltd pleaded guilty to breaching CDM 2007 Regulations 22(1)(a) and 23(2) for failing to properly plan, manage and monitor the project and not identifying the risks from asbestos and taking action to address them. Arcadia Group Ltd admitted breaching CDM 2007 Regulation 16(a) by failing to prevent work starting a construction plan had been produced outlining how if would deal with the asbestos.

Vincents (Shopfitters) Ltd, of  Norwich, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £10,769 in costs. Arcadia Group Ltd, of London, was fined £5,000 with costs of £10,769 on 17 March 2011.

Warren Pennington, the investigating inspector at HSE, said:

“It is shocking that workers were exposed to deadly asbestos fibres, and that the refurbishment work was allowed to happen without the proper control measures in place.

Neither company took adequate action to prevent workers being exposed despite a survey alerting them that asbestos was present in the building. The refurbishment work on the first floor was likely to disturb the asbestos and so a licensed specialist contractor should have carried it out.

Instead, up to 45 individuals, who were working in the building, now have to live with the knowledge that they may become ill with a life-threatening lung disease.”

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