In a groundbreaking trial, a Swiss billionaire and a Belgian baron were found guilty of causing an environmental disaster and failing to comply with safety regulations, resulting in 3,000 alleged asbestos-related deaths. After a lengthy investigation and trial, the first of its kind against a multi-national company, victims and their families wept, cheered and clapped when both men were sentenced to sixteen years imprisonment. Stephan Schmidheiny, the former owner of a company making Eternit Fibre Cement, and Jean-Louis Marie Ghislain de Cartier de Marchienne, a major shareholder, were sentenced in their absence and ordered to pay damages to civil parties in a payout to the tune of millions of Euros.
Asbestos was once hailed the ‘Miracle Fibre’ as it was used in building insulation for its sound absorption and resistance to fire, heat and electrical damage. It was only in the past twenty years that it became known that the inhalation of asbestos fibres can cause lung inflammation and cancer, taking up to 20 years to manifest after exposure. Asbestos exposure related complaints have been lodged elsewhere and activists in countries including France have been waiting for this ruling. “We will ask French judicial authorities, why a trial like this is possible in Italy and not in France” said French lawyer Jean-Paul Teissonniere.
Italy’s Health Minister Renato Balduzzi said in a statement “It is a historic verdict… But the battle against asbestos does not end here, even with an exemplary sentence. There are hopes this conviction will set a precedent and lead to more international cases on workplace health and safety related to asbestos. Balduzzi then stated that the war on asbestos “is not a local battle, but a national one, a worldwide one. The Turin verdict shows that Italy is doing its part”.
In England, the Health and Safety Executive states that anyone responsible for maintenance and repair of a commercial or industrial property has a duty to identify asbestos in the premises and manage the risk. Here at Armco we are fully qualified and experienced in assisting companies to manage the risks associated with asbestos. The can range from providing training to ensure that employees are Asbestos Aware to undertaking Refurbishment Surveys and then removing the asbestos safely under strictly controlled conditions.
Please navigate this site for further information on training and for other enquiries you can call the Armco office on 0161 763 3727 for further information or a competitive quote.
Published Feb 17, 2012