Prosecution date set for council that reportedly ignored asbestos in town hall



A court date has finally been given for the prosecution of Waltham Forest council, on account of an alleged breach of asbestos health and safety regulations.

A government watchdog launched an investigation in 2012 after it was revealed that the local authority was aware of the presence of the potentially deadly substance within Waltham Forest Town Hall, but continued to send staff into the contaminated rooms, which were used to store thousands of documents. Many staff members may have spent protracted amounts of time around the substance, with the affected areas being used from 1984 all the way up to 2012 – a total of almost 30 years.

The council admitted to knowing that three types of asbestos were present in the building, including blue asbestos – the most dangerous variety. It insisted that levels were within government guidelines, but locals remained concerned when it was reported that around 5000 bags of paperwork were going to be destroyed due to their potential contamination.

This was not the first time the authority allegedly failed to protect its citizens from asbestos. In 2010, another investigation indicated that the council had not properly managed or monitored the levels of asbestos in local schools.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will now bring the reportedly responsible council members to prosecution on January 19 at Westminster Magistrates Court.

Asbestos related health complications can take years to develop, but often prove fatal. Many workers exposed to the substance decades ago are now developing mesothelioma, lung cancer or asbestosis, with many companies being ordered to pay substantial amounts of compensation to them or their families.

The unreported existence of the deadly substance in a government building serves to highlight the continued presence of asbestos across the country. Similarly, the upcoming prosecution of council members should act as a sharp reminder of the legal consequences involved in failing to make sure that all premises are fully compliant with appropriate regulations.

If you believe that your home or building may contain asbestos, don’t ignore the problem. Instead, contact Trident Surveying today. We offer professional asbestos surveys in Birmingham and elsewhere in the United Kingdom, and could save you from the moral, financial and legal costs associated with exposure to this often deadly material.

Settlement for relatives of Aston University employees

asbestos surveys Birmingham


If any news story serves to remind us of the great importance of asbestos surveys in Birmingham for the city’s modern day employers, it is the one recently reported by the Birmingham Mail of the compensation payout for the families of two former Aston University workers who died from asbestos-related diseases.

University secretary Valerie White and laboratory technician Robert Burns worked in the Birmingham University’s Biological Sciences department from the 1960s to the 1980s, where they were exposed to the killer dust due to its use for lagging pipes in the basement. Mr Burns, who died in September 2010 aged 75, was present during the on-site cutting up of asbestos insulation boards.

The researcher, who relocated to Cockermouth in Cumbria later in life, died from mesothelioma, a cancer in the lung lining widely known to be caused by asbestos exposure. The same disease was contracted by Mrs White from Wylde Green, Sutton Coldfield. She died in October 2009, aged just 52.

Legal action was launched by the relatives of both victims through Birmingham-based solicitors Irwin Mitchell, leading to an undisclosed payout.

Mrs White’s widower, Christopher, 61, commented: “Valerie’s illness came as such as shock to us and it was heart breaking to see her in pain and watch her strength slowly deteriorate at such a young age, knowing that ultimately there was no cure to the disease.

“Since Valerie died we have been determined to secure justice for her death and we are relieved that our legal team’s persistence paid off having now secured a settlement from Aston University.

“We hope that this will act as a reminder to employers to protect their workers from exposure to asbestos, so other families do not have to watch their loved ones endure so much pain and suffering.”

Mr Burns – known as Bob – was husband for 42 years to Jane, who said: “It was devastating to watch my husband go through so much pain in the final years of his life.

“The last four years since Bob’s death have been a terrible ordeal and I am very glad that the case is now over and the university have had to pay for the suffering they caused, although no amount of money can make up for Bob’s suffering or my loss.

“Our daughters and grandchildren miss him as I do and he will never be replaced in their hearts or mine.”

The case is certainly an extremely sad one that signals, once more, how thankful we should now be for the widespread use of professional asbestos surveys in Birmingham, including in public buildings like universities and hospitals, where it may still be a risk.

A spokesperson for Aston University stated: “We are pleased that a settlement has now been reached on these two cases, which relate to an earlier chapter in the history of the university.”

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