Page last updated at 17:50 GMT, Thursday, 22 January 2009

Firm fined over asbestos exposure

Edinburgh Sheriff Court
The firm was fined at Edinburgh Sheriff Court

A heating installation company has been fined 8,000 after three employees were exposed to asbestos while renovating an Edinburgh church.

The Lothian Heating Services workers spent five days replacing the heating system at St Teresa's Roman Catholic church before learning of the problem.

The company admitted breaching health and safety laws at the city's sheriff court.

The workers could have to wait years to learn if they have been affected.

Craig Cumming and Stephen Smith, both 35, and 46-year-old John Thomson, began work at the 1960's church, on Niddrie Mains Road, in May 2007.

It later emerged an asbestos survey carried out 18 months earlier found the hazardous material in the church and recommended it be removed, but this had not been carried out.

I have to take into account the obvious dangers the cumulative effects of exposure and the prevalence of exposure in this particular industry
Sheriff Kenneth Maciver
Edinburgh Sheriff Court

Lothian Heating Services was found to have taken no steps to discover whether asbestos might be present in the building before beginning work.

Sheriff Kenneth Maciver told the court: "I have to take into account the obvious dangers the cumulative effects of exposure and the prevalence of exposure in this particular industry.

"Three employees were exposed to the risk of inhalation of asbestos dust over a period of five days while working in a relatively confined area."

Defence advocate Gavin Anderson said Lothian Heating Services had taken immediate steps to improve its health and safety and had sent employees on a training course.

The three men involved in the incident continue to work for the company.

Asbestos leads to 4,000 deaths in the UK every year and causes lung scarring, lung cancer and mesothelioma, but illnesses do not emerge for decades after exposure.

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