Building services and packaging firms punished over unsafe removal of hazardous material from Manchester site

Two firms and a company director have been fined after workers in Manchester were exposed to potentially deadly asbestos fibres.

The prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) comes just days before the launch of a £1.2m national campaign to increase awareness about asbestos among tradespeople.

Industrial & Commercial Building Services (ICBS) of Stockport and its managing director, Kevin Bennett of Marple, pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Asbestos Licensing Regulations 1983. The firm and Bennett were each fined £2,000.

Recon Packaging of Ashton-under-Lyne also pleaded guilty to breaching the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 at Trafford magistrates' court on Tuesday. It was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,000.

ICBS employees came into contact with asbestos while demolishing part of the Recon Packaging recycling plant on Bower Street in Miles Platting, Manchester, in early 2006, the court heard.

Recon Packaging hired ICBS to carry out the work after the plant was severely damaged by fire in May 2005. The building included substantial amounts of asbestos but no site assessment was carried out, and ICBS was not licensed to remove the hazardous substance.

HSE inspector Stuart Kitchingman, who visited the site on 13 April 2006, said: "We took immediate action to stop the demolition, and were shocked that workers had been allowed to remove asbestos without the proper precautions being taken.”

Around 4,000 people die every year from diseases linked to asbestos. More people die as a result of being exposed to asbestos than in road accidents.