Guests at a Cheshire-owned hotel in Folkestone, Kent may have been put at risk when quantities of asbestos were found during a recent refurbishment.

Once again, it was reported that a pre-works management survey to search and identify asbestos-containing material (ACMs) was not carried out before the refurbishment work commenced, placing more than twenty building contractors plus hotel guests and staff in the front line of asbestos exposure.

Cases are regularly brought to court where lack or neglect of asbestos awareness led to the failure to carry out the required management survey of a building to uncover hidden asbestos to meet the statutory requirements of The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 / 2012.

Yet finding asbestos present during renovation or demolition of both public and commercial premises is a common enough occurrence to be considered a routine risk. Nearly every week, asbestos is found in housing estates, factory premises, schools, hospitals, storage depots and department stores.

If a premises was first built or refurbished at any time up until the mid 1980s, and even as late as the 1990s, then it is likely that white asbestos ( chrysotile) fibres were still being used as insulation in building materials, including AIB (asbestos insulating board) used for wall panels, soffits, bath panels, concrete water tanks, etc. Despite the ban on the most toxic ‘blue’ and ‘brown’ forms in 1985, ‘white’ asbestos was still most commonly used in the construction of boiler houses, ceilings, balconies and walkways.

At the Folkestone hotel, the widespread presence of asbestos on the second floor and within the eaves of the building was discovered by an asbestos surveyor, who was called to the site after work had already began on the removal of walls and ceilings as part of the refurbishment.

Following the sealing off the contaminated area to prevent fibres spreading to other parts of the hotel, and the subsequent removal of the material by a licensed asbestos contractor, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was also brought in to investigate.

The HSE found that while guests did not have direct access to the floors where asbestos was found, it was “possible that the fibres may have spread” into other accessible areas, placing both guests and workers at possible risk, and “ facing an uncertain future.”

Asbestos is known for possessing a long gestation period of up to 50 years from an initial exposure before the earliest signs of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms emerge.

Pleading guilty to two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, the parent company was fined a total of £160,000 and ordered to pay £40,051 including court costs.

Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees.”

Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety.”