Head Of Training, The Healthy Work Company

October 7, 2016

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Night club owner fined over asbestos exposure

A Bolton night club owner has been sentenced after admitting a failure to carry out a survey for asbestos before starting on the refurbishment of a local night club.

Manchester Magistrates’ court heard how UK Night Life Limited and its sole director, Charles John McGrath, undertook the management of a refurbishment project between 1 August and 12 August 2015 on The Level nightclub, Mawdsley Street, Bolton without an experienced contractor in place to manage the site. Up to 20 workers were potentially exposed to deadly asbestos fibres in order for the club to open in time for Fresher’s week and an influx of students to the club.

The site first came to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) attention in August 2015 following a complaint from Bolton Council regarding unsafe construction works throughout the site.

The HSE inspector served a total of three Prohibition Notices and two Improvement Notices, along with a Notification of Contravention for a foreseeable risk of asbestos exposure, a lack of competent site manager, risks of falls from height, unsuitable welfare facilities and inadequate fire safety precautions.

Charles McGrath, sole director of UK Night Life Limited, of Mawdsley Street, Bolton, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and Regulations 5(a) and 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, and was fined £5,720.00 with costs of £3,535.86.

In his summing up, District Judge Sanders remarked that Mr McGrath had chosen to rush through the works with unqualified and inexperienced people running the site on a day-to-day basis. He went on to say that it was clear that these offences amounted to a ‘degree of cost cutting at the expense of safety’.

HSE inspector Matt Greenly said after the case: “Mr McGrath totally failed in his duty to protect his workers, subcontractors and anyone else accessing this site from a foreseeable risk of serious harm. Asbestos related diseases are currently untreatable and claim the lives of an estimated 5,000 people per year in the UK.

“The requirement to have a suitable asbestos survey is clear and well known throughout the construction industry. Only by knowing if asbestos is present in any building before works commence can a contractor ensure that people working on their site are not exposed to these deadly fibres.

“The cost of an asbestos survey is minimal compared to the legacy facing anyone who worked on this site. They now have to live with the realisation that due to the lack of care taken by Mr McGrath they may face a life shortening disease at some point over the next 30 or more years, from an exposure which was totally preventable. This case sends a clear message to any company that it does not pay to ignore risks on site, especially to simply keep to a self-imposed tight schedule.”

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Vince Butler
Vince Butler
5 years ago

It would be interesting to see how the new sentencing guidelines were applied to this case.
The fine + costs of under £10k seem low for the number and seriousness of the offences.
This case doesn’t appear to come anywhere near the penalty ranges set out in the sentencing guidelines for the apparent level of culpabity and the risk the workers were exposed to.
I suspect the money saved by ignoring the law and putting people at risk was significantly greater than the total penalty of under £10k ?.

Frank Sheppard
Frank Sheppard
5 years ago
Reply to  Vince Butler

What a derisory fine less than £10,000 pounds fine for several serious breaches of safety. He will make that up in a weekend. NOT GOOD ENOUGH. Its about time the courts and HSE started doing what they are paid for and put in place proper deterrents for breach of safety. Also seems the HSE missed a load more breaches if you look between the lines.

And totally and Absolutely agree with the previous comment

P. Madkins
P. Madkins
5 years ago

The punishment is way too lenient for these significant health & safety breaches. This DOES NOT SEND OUT THE RIGHT MESSAGE to other possible offenders, they will just continue to flout the Law!
Completely agree with all content in the previous comments.

Ray Rapp
Ray Rapp
5 years ago

It appears killing people through a latent disease like Mesothelioma is not considered a serious offence. Another example of a Court being out of touch with the law. Rather than being a deterrent, this case gives a green light to other would-be offenders to disregard the law in the unlikely event they should get caught and prosecuted. No mention of CDM breaches I note, but then again CDM 2015 is a joke anyway.