Cinema director fined for asbestos management failings

A St Albans cinema director has been fined after he put workers and members of the public at risk of exposure to asbestos.

James Hannaway, 68, from Berkhampstead, the sole director of The Alpha Cinema (St Albans) Limited was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after he allowed refurbishment of the derelict multiscreen cinema to begin in 2010 without proper checks for asbestos.

Stevenage Magistrates’ Court heard that in April 2012, James Hannaway went on to engage around 30 members of the public to remove the debris from the demolition work over the course of two days.

An asbestos survey was eventually carried out in early October 2012, which identified the presence of asbestos in the building (after the debris removal), and recommended that no-one entered the affected areas. Despite this, the court was told Hannaway was seen taking people into the building to view the ongoing work.

James Hannaway of Waterside, Berkhampstead, Hertfordshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and to breaching Regulation 5 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and Regulation 16 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. He was fined £11,660 and ordered to pay £7,000 in costs.

HSE Inspector Paul Hoskins stated:

“HSE takes these potential disturbances very seriously. This is another example of a company failing to carry out the required asbestos checks before refurbishment work starts. A survey is required to ensure asbestos is identified and removed to prevent inadvertent disturbance.”

>> What is the duty to manage asbestos? <<

Asbestos had been previously identified in a survey of the building carried out before it was purchased. However, it is not known whether or not asbestos materials were actually disturbed during the refurbishment.

If asbestos disturbance did occur, it is likely that some workers and members of the public would have been exposed to asbestos fibres. This exposure, would give rise to an increased risk of developing asbestos related disease in the future.

Fortunately however, the increased risk would be low due to the short duration of the work.

Asbestos exposure incidents understandably cause anxiety about the possible long-term health effects. Although in this case it is not certain that asbestos has been disturbed, individuals involved may still wish to consult their GP.

A checklist for the duty to manage asbestos safely can be found here.

Additional information can be found at the HSE website – or if you just need a friendly chat to understand your responsibilities, call us on 0844 264 0094.