The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted the council after a visiting contractor spotted debris on the floor of a building at the Woolsthorpe depot in Bilborough and suspected that it could be asbestos-containing material.
When the discovery was made on 23 May 2009 the building was occupied by the council's Street Scene team, part of the council's neighbourhood services section responsible for maintaining and improving the city's environment. The building was used as offices, garages, a mess room and storage.
The HSE investigation found that when the city council bought the depot in February 2005, an asbestos survey was carried out and the majority of the asbestos removed. However, due to the design of the building there was no guarantee that all the asbestos had been removed particularly, from joints in the roof. The council took the decision to contain any remaining asbestos in the building by painting the affected areas.
The specialist company that managed the asbestos removal gave the city council a plan which told them where any remaining asbestos was located and how to manage its condition. The city council failed to follow this plan. Health and safety inspections of the depot took place but these did not identify that the city council's own policies on the management of asbestos had not been implemented. This included failing to identify that Street Scene's management had not been properly trained in these policies.
The HSE's investigation found that for more than four years during which the asbestos deteriorated, the council did nothing to prevent the exposure to asbestos of those working in, or visiting, the building.
HSE principal inspector Frank Lomas said: "The latest health and safety statistics show that more people are dying as a result of asbestos related diseases than are killed in accidents at work. This situation will not change unless organisations take their duty to manage asbestos seriously.
"The council failed to identify that its own asbestos policy had not been implemented at the depot. It's all well and good having policies in place but they are meaningless unless they are put into practice and in this case, around 150 people were needlessly exposed to a potentially fatal substance."
Nottingham City Council pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 4(10) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and Regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. Nottingham magistrates today fined the council £15,000 for each offence and ordered them to pay costs of £12,000.