Ipswich: Poundland £ 565,000 fine for store asbestos

Published:
2:42 PM September 23, 2022



Updated:
5:22 PM September 23, 2022

Poundland has been fined £ 565,000 after being accused of “completely disregarding” its duty to manage the risks from asbestos in one of its Ipswich town center stores.

Sentencing the company at Ipswich Crown Court, Recorder Dijon Basu KC said there was a culture by Poundland of not caring about the asbestos in the former Woolworths building in Carr Street.

However, he said staff and customers at the store could take “great comfort” that the risk of harm from the asbestos was low.

The court heard that Poundland was aware of the presence of asbestos in the four-storey building before it took over the lease of the premises following an expert survey in 2010.

Asbestos was found in a number of areas, including ceiling and floor tiles on the shop floor and in a stock room and in a damaged panel close to an area where goods were brought in and out of the building.

However, despite yearly surveys by experts saying access should be restricted from some areas of the building until the asbestos had been removed or sealed, Poundland had failed to produce a plan to manage the problem, said Pascal Bates, prosecuting on behalf of Ipswich Borough Council .

The court heard Poundland had taken steps to block off some areas where there was asbestos by sealing and locking doors, placing warning signs on the doors and placing metal stacking shelves in front of them.

However, Mr Bates said on one occasion when there was a water leak from an upper floor a contractor had gone to the area without having the benefit of an asbestos management plan which would have identified areas containing asbestos.

Mr Bates said there was an obligation on whoever had control of the premises to manage the asbestos and to have an asbestos management plan because of the serious health risks from asbestos.

Poundland Ltd admitted breaching control of asbestos regulations between 2011 and 2018 by failing to monitor the condition of asbestos in the building, failing to ensure that areas containing asbestos were properly maintained or the asbestos removed and failing to ensure that the location of asbestos and its condition was provided to every person liable to disturb it and to the emergency services.

In addition to being fined Poundland was ordered to pay £ 75,000 costs.

Ian Thomas for Poundland said the company had now produced an asbestos management plan.

He accepted the company had had a lack of understanding about some of its regulatory duties and had been over-reliant on its asbestos consultants.

There had been a low risk of harm to customers and staff as the asbestos in ceiling tiles was unlikely to have been disturbed.

He said Poundland didn’t accept there was a culture of not caring about the asbestos in the building and the company had restricted access to large parts of the building.

After the case, councilor Alasdair Ross, portfolio holder for community protection and health at Ipswich Borough Council, said: “This case shows how important it is for even the largest businesses to seriously take their legal requirement to manage asbestos in premises they use. Asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers each year, this is more than the number of people killed on roads.

“Ipswich Borough Council, as the local enforcement authority for health and safety, is committed to working with businesses to meet their legal duties. In cases of serious and long-standing failure where identified shortcomings are not corrected in a timely manner, Ipswich Borough Council will take enforcement action, even if that means bringing a criminal prosecution as we did in this case. “

A Poundland spokesman said: “We’re obviously sorry we didn’t have a formal asbestos management plan for our Ipswich store between 2010 and 2018.

“In terms of asbestos management, Poundland now has significantly different protocols and monitoring today with robust plans for any location that requires them.

“While the breaches in Ipswich largely occurred when Poundland was under different ownership, it goes without saying we’re sorry for what happened.”

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