Waltham Forest Borough Council has been fined £66,000 after it knowingly exposed members of staff and visiting contractors to asbestos for a decade.

A survey commissioned by the Council in 2002 revealed asbestos was present in the basement of the town hall, but no action was taken to put measures in place to control the hazardous substance. Employees and contractors continued to work in the basement for the following 10 years, despite the presence and known risks of asbestos.

Following a second investigation into the presence of asbestos by the Health and Safety Executive in 2012, more asbestos was found in other areas of the basement and the boiler room and no action had been taken to remove the asbestos which had initially been discovered.

The council pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act and has been fined £66,000 and ordered to pay £16,862 in costs.

Asbestos was commonly used in the manufacturing, construction and shipbuilding industries and remains present today in many public sector and commercial workplace buildings in the UK. Exposure to asbestos can cause lung diseases including the fatal cancer, mesothelioma.

Lorna Webster, a specialist asbestos claims solicitor based in Thompsons Solicitors’ London office, said: “The lack of action by Waltham Forest Borough Council is truly shocking. For the Council knowingly to allow work to be carried out in the presence of asbestos without warning people of the risks and providing appropriate protection is irresponsible and negligent.

“Sadly, this type of workplace negligence is not isolated. As a firm we ran the first case which established people’s right to compensation for asbestos disease and we have represented thousands of victims of asbestos exposure since. We are on hand to offer specialist help if our expertise can support anyone affected by asbestos disease.”