"Unbelievable" Asbestos Blunder by Selfridges

Employees exposed to asbestos dust at work


Selfridges has been criticised by the health and safety watchdog for leaving staff and workmen exposed to asbestos dust.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said "unbelievable" failings by the London department store meant staff were free to walk into a contaminated area where asbestos was uncovered by contractors in May 2007.

HSE inspector Lisa Chappell said an incorrect survey of the site had disturbed an asbestos pipe. Contractors were the required to work on part of a basement that had not been assessed as part of the survey.

In an email to David Ball, a senior practitioner in the Westminster City Council health and safety team, Ms Chappell said: "Following the pulling down of of the pipe, several people from Selfridges, Davis Langdon (Selfridges' project consultants) and Ibex (the principal contractor) walked through the area on more than one occasion 'to see what had happened'."

She said that the contaminated area was a room between a warehouse and staff locker rooms, both of which continued to be used by staff.

She also said that there were large holes on the warehouse side, which allowed the air to continue to circulate as it was not properly sealed off.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

Adrian Budgen from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "A large number of department stores (built before 1980) contain asbestos, as do many public buildings, so the greatest possible care has to be taken when renovations are carried out. Asbestos has recently been discovered at the Palace of Westminster, which shows how widespread the use of asbestos was. It is not yesterday's problem."