Colchester: Zoo fined �35k for breaking health and safety laws

A judge issued the punishment to Colchester Zoo yesterday after it emerged staff had been exposed to toxic asbestos materials.

Last month the Zoo director Anthony Tropeano appeared at Colchester Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty to 12 separate charges over asbestos removed from a hay barn between May 8 to June 27 2011.

During the proceedings it emerged untrained staff had moved the vast majority of the material, with a specialist contractor called in to remove the less than 1% remaining.

The charges were brought by Colchester Borough Council who said the Zoo should have employed specialist contractors to remove asbestos sheets from the barn.

Instead they used their own maintenance staff who wore protective clothing.

At Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday the Zoo was fined a total of �35,000 plus �3,398 costs.

The court also heard how staff removed panels using a fork lift truck, despite not having training for this either.

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The Zoo held an experts report on the asbestos but they claimed it was not made clear a contractor should have been called in.

Colchester Borough Council has since issued a warning to businesses about breaking health and safety laws.

A council spokeswoman said: “Colchester Borough Council is pleased to have concluded this successful prosecution. Those responsible for commercial or business premises have a health and safety duty to others working there.

“Our Food and Safety Team carries out regular checks on local businesses and business premises to ensure that safe and healthy working conditions are provided for all employees and visitors.

“We hope this sentence sends out a clear message that the Council is committed to identifying and prosecuting businesses not operating to health and safety guidelines.”

Nobody from Colchester Zoo was available for comment.

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