Level nightclub of Bolton has been sentenced and fined for potentially exposing construction contractors to deadly asbestos, among other site safety failures during the refurbishment in 2015 that saw it convert from its previous guise as J2 nightclub.
Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard evidence from the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) that Level, owned by UK Night Life Limited, and its sole director, Charles John McGrath, refurbished the former J2 club on Mawdsley Street in Bolton town centre between 1 August and 12 August 2015 without experienced site management. Up to 20 workers might have been exposed to deadly asbestos fibres as the club rushed to be open in time for that year’s freshers’ week and the potential custom from the latest academic year of students at the University of Bolton.
The site first came to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) attention in August 2015 following a complaint from Bolton Council to the HSE. Council inspectors observed several unsafe construction conditions throughout the site. An HSE inspector then served three prohibition notices and two improvement notices, plus a notification of contravention for a foreseeable risk of asbestos exposure, a lack of any competent site manager, clear risks of falls from height on the site, unsuitable welfare facilities and inadequate fire safety precautions.
Charles McGrath pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Level was fined £5,720.00 plus costs of £3,535.86, a total of £9,255.86.
In his summing up, District Judge Sanders remarked that Mr McGrath had chosen to rush through the works with unqualified and inexperienced personnel running the site on a day-to-day basis. He said it was clear that the offences displayed a ‘degree of cost cutting at the expense of safety’.
HSE inspector Matt Greenly said after the case:
“Mr McGrath totally failed in his duty to protect his workers, subcontractors and anyone else accessing this site from a foreseeable risk of serious harm. Asbestos related diseases are currently untreatable and claim the lives of an estimated 5,000 people per year in the UK.
“The requirement to have a suitable asbestos survey is clear and well known throughout the construction industry. Only by knowing if asbestos is present in any building before works commence can a contractor ensure that people working on their site are not exposed to these deadly fibres.
“The cost of an asbestos survey is minimal compared to the legacy facing anyone who worked on this site. They now have to live with the realisation that due to the lack of care taken by Mr McGrath they may face a life shortening disease at some point over the next 30 or more years, from an exposure which was totally preventable. This case sends a clear message to any company that it does not pay to ignore risks on site, especially to simply keep to a self-imposed tight schedule.”
Paul Hill, an industrial disease expert at Asons Solicitors of Bolton, located close to the club, commented on the case by saying that:
“In this day and age when most people are fully aware of the significant short and long term health risks that can be caused by exposure to asbestos fibres, it is incredulous that an establishment such as this would cut corners and blatantly ignore the HSE guidelines in order to save money. People’s health and safety should always come first.
“We are pleased to see that the court has dealt with this in a timely and efficient manner and we sincerely hope this will serve as a future warning to any other establishments who are thinking of cutting costs when refurbishing or updating their premises.”