Waltham Forest Council today pleaded guilty to 4 charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Control of Asbestos regulations. The HSE prosecuted the case against the Council, which involved the Council’s failure to carry out remedial works and properly manage asbestos in the basement at Waltham Forest Town Hall.
There were employees employed in that basement working in the print room and potentially hundreds of employees and contractors had cause to visit the basement to collect files, visit the print room and to attend meetings.
During the course of this morning’s hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court it became evident that Waltham Forest Council had been aware of potential asbestos related issues since 2006 and possibly before that and since then had failed to protect the safety of both employees and non-employees by failing to manage the asbestos in accordance with the regulations. This included failing to carry out remedial works that had been recommended by a Council commissioned survey carried out in 2006.
This issue came to light when a local resident was refused access to requested files because of the risk of exposure to asbestos dust.
UNISON Branch Secretary, Dave Knight, who attended the hearing said, “We are appalled that our employer should show such scant regard for the health and safety of people who work in and use the Town Hall. We are pleased that the HSE have taken up this case because previous improvement notices and approaches from the trade unions have failed to ensure that the Council carry out their legal responsibilities in protecting people from potential exposure to deadly asbestos in their own Town Hall. Today’s decision by the Magistrate to pass this matter on to the Crown Court is welcomed because it recognises the seriousness of the offences, something that the Council appear to have some difficulty accepting. The case demonstrates a lack of concern for employees and contractors and anyone else who had cause to visit the Town Hall basement and it is for this reason that we call upon the Chief Executive of Waltham Forest Council to tender his resignation.”
The Magistrate referred the matter on to Crown Court with a provisional date of 2nd February 2015.