Shoe firm fined PS45k over store's asbestos.
Byline: JOE THOMAS Crime Reporter email@example.com @joe_thomas18
A HIGH street shoe firm has been fined PS45,000 after staff at its Liverpool branch were exposed to asbestos-riddled store rooms.
Environmental health officers found boxes of shoes stashed in basement alcoves among damaged ceiling tiles and pipework when they investigated Pavers Ltd.
Head office then told the shop manager to remove the exposed stock - even though Liverpool council had ordered the rooms to be locked up.
Town hall safety officers first visited the Lord Street store in 2012 to investigate complaints that staff had been exposed to asbestos.
During the inspection, an officer investigated the basement - used to store stock and other items.
Signs warning "Danger Asbestos" and "Do Not Enter" were placed on the doors to two rooms.
Yet both were unlocked and - despite defective ceiling tiles and pipework being lagged with damaged insulation - shoes and shop equipment were stored inside.
Those rooms were ordered to be locked up under the terms of a Prohibition Notice but just months later the council discovered they "had been accessed by the store manager on the instruction of Pavers' head office". A new visit found stock and equipment inside the locked rooms had been removed.
It was also discovered the manager was not told to wear any protective clothing and had not received any training from Pavers about asbestos before entering the rooms. Shoe boxes removed from the rooms were then sold on from the store or returned to Pavers' head office in York - potentially exposing people to asbestos fibres, which can lead to serious disease.
Earlier this year, Pavers Ltd pleaded guilty to contravening a requirement or prohibition imposed by a Prohibition Notice.
Sentencing the company at Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Graham Morrow said: "Such a blatant disregard of that notice makes the case more serious than the potential underlying offences.
"Furthermore, the means of the company are such that the fine must be sufficiently substantial to have a real economic impact which will bring home to both management and shareholders for the need to comply with health and safety legislation."
Pavers Ltd was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of PS120, and full costs of PS12,180.66 were awarded to Liverpool council.
Pavers, on Lord Street