Industrial disease claims could be made against a leading accommodation chain after it emerged that guests and construction workers at one of its hotels were put in danger of coming into contact with asbestos.
An investigation conducted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) established that Britannia Hotels failed to make sure a full asbestos assessment was carried out before work to refurbish part of its Grand Burstin Hotel in Folkestone began in February 2010.
As such, the Cheshire-based group - which owns 42 hotels across the country - put customers staying at the building and the professionals completing the five-month project at risk of being exposed to the potentially-lethal substance.
During a case at Canterbury Crown Court, it was heard that an asbestos surveyor, who was called out to the site after the work had been completed, found the material to be widespread in the eaves of the building and its second floor.
Subsequently, a licensed asbestos contractor had to carry out work at the hotel to ensure the substance substance did not spread any further.
It cannot yet be established whether or not any of the workers or guests were directly affected by their exposure to asbestos, as industrial diseases such as mesothelioma can take years to become apparent.
Nevertheless, Britannia Hotels was fined £160,000 after it admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Melvyn Stancliffe, inspector at the HSE, explained that up to 22 professionals who worked at the hotel at some point during the five months are likely to have been exposed to asbestos.
"Although guests did not have direct access to the floors where asbestos was found, it is possible that the fibres may have spread into areas that were still open to them. The simple fact is that because of the company's failures, both guests and workers have been put at risk, and they now face an uncertain future," he added.
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Posted by Chris Stevenson