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The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has prosecuted a firm that makes fertiliser after it potentially exposed its workers to asbestos.

In the region of 50 GrowHow UK Ltd employees were exposed at its facility near the Cheshire town of Ellesmere Port in January 2011.

The firm was completing refurbishment works to its Primary Reformer – an industrial furnace measuring 50 metres high – at the Ince Marshes facility. For a space of two days, workers were demolishing areas of the structure before work was halted.

Using hand tools to break up insulation boards and rubble before pouring it down a chute, workers were unaware the dust produced could have been releasing asbestos fibres. It was only when concerns were raised by a bricklayer working on the project that the issue was highlighted.

Material sent for analysis after the alarm was raised tested positive for asbestos.

In the hearing at Chester Crown Court, it was heard that no suitable asbestos survey had been carried out.

If a survey had been carried out, licensed contractors equipped with the necessary person protective equipment (PPE) for dealing with asbestos could have made the site safe.

After pleading guilty, the firm received a fine of £60,000 plus £18,000 costs.

Following the case, Daniel Longdon, a HSE inspector working on the investigation, said:

"Dozens of workers at GrowHow were exposed to potentially deadly fibres because the company didn't carry out a risk assessment to see if asbestos was present in the industrial furnace.”

Longdon went on to say that the workers must now live bearing the risk of developing asbestos related diseases.

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