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The Health and Safety Executive is warning building and maintenance workers and their employers that they must take proper precautions when working in buildings where asbestos may be present. The warning follows the prosecution of Asahi Glass Fluoropolymers UK Limited (AGFP) of Thornton Cleveleys near Blackpool. The company was fined £3,000 and ordered to pay full costs of £1,396 following a guilty plea to safety offences.

An HSE investigation followed an incident when ceiling tiles containing asbestos were removed during refurbishment work contracted out by AGFP at their factory in Lancashire. HSE found workers had been exposed to asbestos over a three day period. As the work progressed, AGFP managers suspected that the ceiling tiles might contain asbestos but still allowed work to continue in the contaminated area. The contractor was not licensed for asbestos work.

HSE inspector Peter Gray said: "This case highlights the need for companies to take a precautionary approach when carrying out maintenance work on materials suspected of containing asbestos. All such work should be carefully planned and risk assessed with prior confirmation of any asbestos content. The work itself should be supervised and executed by competent staff, with contingency measures in place in the event of asbestos being inadvertently encountered. This applies not only to the contractors carrying out the work, but also to the client who has duties to manage the work safely."

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