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The dangers involved in working with asbestos have been highlighted by a recent Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecution.

Wear Valley District Council was recently fined £18,000 at Darlington Magistrates Court, after admitting six offences under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002.

The HSE investigation followed up a complaint by a maintenance worker at the council-run leisure centre, who discovered that the plant room of the centre contained asbestos.

HM Inspector of Health and Safety, Richard Bishop, said: 'A survey had been carried out in 2001 which identified asbestos containing materials. This information was not acted upon and no-one who worked in the plant room was made aware.

'As a result, work that was liable to disturb the asbestos was done without the necessary precautions required by law to protect their health from exposure.'

The case has highlighted the need for adequate Personal Protection Equipment to be provided in all such cases.

Mr Bishop continued: 'This case should serve as a warning, not only to Local Authorities, but to everyone responsible for carrying out or contracting maintenance work on buildings where asbestos may be present.'

As reported by Legal and Medical magazine, criminal prosecutions brought under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 more than tripled last year, to 37.

Nick McMahon, of Reynolds Porter and Chamberlain, recently commented: 'This is a serious issue for businesses and their individual directors.

'The rapidly increasing number of criminal prosecutions under the 2002 rules is a clear indication that all businesses, not just those in the highest risk industries, need to sit up and take notice of the asbestos issue.'

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