Monks sue heating firm for £35k after asbestos found

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AN ORDER of monks turned from the rule of God to the judgment of the courtroom after engineers unleashed a cloud of asbestos into their chapel.

The Order of Friars Minor sued a heating firm for £35,000 when workers battered two holes in a wall of their Edinburgh base.

Staff at Lothian Heating Services had spent a week installing a new heating system before they noticed an asbestos warning in the monks’ toilet.

The Health and Safety Executive was called in and work had to stop immediately so the dangerous material could be disposed of.

Members of the religious group from the city’s Craigmillar area usually spend their time praying and carrying out charity work.

But they became embroiled in a legal action at Edinburgh Sheriff Court to recover the £35,000 they spent making their building safe again.

The monks claimed workers failed to check whether asbestos was present in the building ahead of work to replace the chapel’s heating system.

As well as complaining about the release of the asbestos the monks also said the structure of their building was left unsound when the workmen tore the holes in the wall.

The monks have remained tight-lipped about the outcome of the case, although a joint minute agreeing a settlement was due to be lodged with the court this month, according to officials.

Lodged legal papers said friar Father Collins entered into a contract with the heating firm in February 2007 on behalf of the order.

The deal was for the design, supply and installation of a heating system for the chapel, and the company was also commissioned to remove the existing heating system.

On May 17 that year the firm’s employees created a large access hole through the wall from the boiler house of the building to facilitate the removal of old pipes. The pipes had asbestos insulation material attached to them.

According to the order’s legal team the firm’s employees worked on the boiler room and the building’s laundry room, but were “unaware that there was any asbestos present”.

Then on May 24 one of the employees noticed an asbestos warning sticker “by chance” in the male toilets on the ground floor of the property. The workers spoke to Father Anthony about the “possible presence” of the asbestos, and he told them there was an asbestos register and provided them with a copy.

From this the company “ascertained that they had unknowingly been working with dangerous asbestos”.

The matter was then reported to the Health and Safety Executive and work stopped.

However, lawyers acting for the firm said a survey was commissioned by the monks in 2005 to establish the presence of asbestos.

The company declined to comment on the case.