The potentially fatal material was discovered in the in the town hall basement through an asbestos survey in 2002, yet the council failed to take adequate action to act on the findings and put effective controls in place.
As a result employees and contractors were permitted to continue working in the basement regardless of the dangers for the next decade.
The Magistrates Court heard that the issue only became public by chance in mid-2012 when a local resident put in a request to the council to see some election expenses documentation. The authority denied the request saying the paperwork was contaminated with asbestos, and the resident approached the HSE’s ‘Mythbuster Challenge Panel’.
HSE found that a second asbestos survey carried out in January 2012 identified problems of asbestos in the boiler room and other areas of the basement. It also highlighted that areas identified in the 2002 survey had not been remedied.
In addition, the court heard that the Council had no asbestos management plan in place and the system for inspecting the dangerous fibres was inadequate. HSE served an Improvement Notice on the council requiring them to put in place a proper management plan .
The council was fined a total of £66,000 and ordered to pay £16,862 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and a breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.