Creation of mezzanine storage ends in firm and director prosecution
Mansfield Soft Furnishings Ltd and director David Mansfield have been prosecuted after up to 30 employees were exposed to the asbestos fibres at premises in Rochdale.
Trafford Magistrates heard the company, which refurbishes furniture, moved into the factory unit in September 2007 and created a mezzanine storage area in the eaves of the roof.
Foam was placed in this storage space and it was often placed on the beams and underside of the roof, which it later emerged contained asbestos. The material was “dragged” through the eaves before being thrown to the floor releasing asbestos dust into the air.
HSE visited in June 2012 on a separate issue and noticed the material on the roof of the mezzanine looked similar to sprayed asbestos and was in a poor condition.
An Improvement Notice was issued because the company had failed to arrange for an asbestos survey to be carried out, despite employees raising concerns that asbestos may be present.
A survey was eventually completed which revealed asbestos was present in the roof, and fibres were likely to have been spread throughout the building as the foam was dragged down and taken through the workshop.
HSE served the company with a Prohibition Notice on 10 July 2012 banning access to the building until it had been decontaminated.
However, Mr Mansfield and another worker re-entered the building at about 8pm on the same day to remove furniture worth approximately £25,000 so it could be delivered to a client, breaching the terms of the Prohibition Notice.
Asbestos survey required before moving into building
Mansfield Soft Furnishings Ltd was fined £30,000 after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 by failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of workers and failing to comply with the Prohibition Notice. David Mansfield, 48, of Northolt Fold in Heywood, was fined £10,000 after admitting that he deliberately breached the Prohibition Notice. The co-defendants were also ordered to pay joint costs of £20,000.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector David Norton said:
“Workers at Mansfield Soft Furnishings will have to live the rest of their lives knowing they’re at risk of contracting a deadly lung disease because of the actions of their employer.
The company should have arranged for an asbestos survey to be carried out before moving into the building, but it failed to do this even after some workers raised concerns.
This meant that employees were exposed to potentially deadly asbestos fibres for nearly five years as pieces of foam were moved – disturbing the asbestos material – and then dropped to the floor below, releasing dust into the air.
Even after a Prohibition Notice was issued banning access to the building, the company put profit before safety when Mr Mansfield and another worker went back in.”