Council put “lives at risk every day”

21st January 2015

An ex-council employee who worked in a basement contaminated with asbestos said workers’ lives were put “at risk every day to get the job done”.

Waltham Forest council is currently on trial at Westminster Magistrates Court, and has pleaded guilty to four counts of breaching health and safety regulations, as it failed to protect its staff from asbestos exposure. The council was first made aware of the presence of asbestos in the basement print room of Walthamstow town hall in Forest Road back in 2002, but no further investigations or checks were carried out, reports

Staff members were later exposed to all three types of asbestos, as the deadly fibres were disturbed. The issue was only exposed in 2012, when local resident, Nick Tiratsoo, submitted a Freedom of Information request. This request was denied, because the documents were contaminated with asbestos, so Mr Tiratsoo decided to alert the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), reports

Kenneth Moore, one of the people that worked in the basement between 2009 and 2012, said he will be worried about the possibility of developing asbestos-related cancer for the rest of his life.

“It was like a scene out of the ‘X Files’,” he said.

“I came into work on the Monday morning and I was told we were not allowed to go into the basement. There was a big plastic sheet covering the entrance, covering everything. There were men in protective suits walking back and forth. We were told we may as well forget about anything we had left down there – we would not be seeing it again.”