Corgi Hosiery fined over factory asbestos removal

A company in Carmarthenshire has been fined £25,000 after being found guilty of failing to protect its employees from asbestos.

Corgi Hosiery Ltd, which makes socks for Prince Charles, hired unqualified contractors to carry out work on the roof of its Ammanford factory.

Samples were taken in 2008 from material removed from the factory and all 14 samples contained asbestos.

Merthyr Crown Court heard the incident had cost the company £800,000

At the same sentencing hearing, Stuart Phillips, 26, a manager at Dragon Cladding which carried out the work, was fined a total of £4,000 for breaches of duty.

Simon Parrington, prosecuting, told the court that in June 2008 the directors of Corgi Hosiery decided work was required on the factory roof.

When quotes were being made, contractors took a sample of the roof, found it contained asbestos and informed Corgi Hosiery.

A quote from Dragon Cladding for the work was accepted and it began at the end of September 2008.

Mr Parrington said Phillips, of Llangadog, was in charge of the removal of asbestos sheeting and their replacement.

As work proceeded, two of Dragon's men noticed a purlin, or roof support, with material on it.

Mr Parrington said Phillips had told the men to clear the roof supports, which they did, taking about a week to do so.

The Dragon workers knew they would be required to handle asbestos roof sheeting but they were not told what the material on the roof supports was, he said.

Anonymous complaint

Mr Parrington added that one Corgi employee was required to work in the part of the factory where work was taking place and others had to cross it to washing facilities and a clocking in point.

He added that the asbestos was not confined to the factory.

The court heard an anonymous complaint was made to a health and safety officer and a visit was made where a skip full of asbestos was found lying in the yard.

Decontamination took two and a half months and involved eight men.

Mr Parrington said an asbestos supervisor had said: "In all my years working with asbestos I have never seen anything so bad."

Dragon Cladding had never had an asbestos licence, he said, and had been struck off by Companies House for non-compliance.

The court also heard that Dragon Cladding had since gone into administration.

'Potentially deadly'

Matthew Paul, defending Corgi Hosiery Ltd, said the company had paid for the clean up.

He said the incident had cost the company £800,000 meaning it had to remortgage the factory and borrow £300,000.

Carl Harrison, defending Phillips, said his client was remorseful.

He added that Phillips had not been there on a daily basis and said he had told Corgi Hosiery that employees should not have access to the area while work was being carried out.

Passing sentence, Judge Richard Twomlow said it was clear the material on the purlins should have been investigated.

However, he said he was satisfied that neither Corgi Hosiery nor Phillips believed it was asbestos.

The prosecution had applied for costs of £63,00 from Corgi Hosiery but the judge said he was ordering a contribution of £15,000.

Phillips was ordered to pay costs of £1,000.

Health and Safety Executive inspector Anne Marie Orrells said after the hearing: "Had Mr Phillips adequately assessed the risks prior to the start of the work, it would have been apparent that the work should have been carried out by an asbestos-licensed contractor, under controlled conditions.

"Corgi Hosiery Limited should have ensured measures were taken to exclude employees and visitors from the area while the roof work was being carried out overhead.

"As a result of these failings, both workers and visitors to their premises were exposed to potentially deadly asbestos-containing materials."

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