South West Wales

Prince Charles sock maker Corgi Hosiery's asbestos safety guilty verdict

A company in Carmarthenshire which makes socks for Prince Charles has been found guilty of failing to protect its employees from asbestos.

Corgi Hosiery in Ammanford hired unqualified contractors to remove the material and replace a roof.

A jury at Swansea Crown Court heard the Health and Safety Executive was tipped off and ordered the company to evacuate its factory on New Road in 2008.

The company had denied breaching the Health and Safety Act.

During the trial the jury heard in 2008 Corgi Hosiery hired Dragon Cladding as a contractor to work on the replacement of a roof.

On 22 October the HSE received a telephone call from someone complaining that asbestos was being removed from the factory while employees were still there.

"Covered in dust"

Simon Parrington, prosecuting, said an investigation showed that asbestos dust had been spread throughout the factory and across the car park.

The jury heard that one machine could not be moved during the work and the operator Paul Hale had continued working while chunks of asbestos bounced onto the factory floor around him and his machine became covered in dust.

Mr Parrington said it could be many years, even decades, before it is known if any employees will develop lung cancer.

Samples were taken from 14 locations and every one had either white, blue or brown asbestos in them.

A skip filled with asbestos material was left parked at the factory after a waste disposal company refused to remove it because their employees realised what was inside.

White material

A properly qualified company using eight men took two-and-a-half months to clean the site at a cost of more than £210,000.

The jury heard Corgi Hosiery was run by Chris Jones and his sister Lisa Wood.

Mr Jones told the jury that he was assured that any asbestos would be removed safely.

When it was discovered that roof purlins had been coated in a white material he was reassured, he said, that it was not asbestos and so approved the firm to chip the material away using hammers and chisels.

The court heard Ms Wood was so oblivious to the true nature of the material falling onto the factory floor she allowed her children to make shapes out of the dust.

Mr Parrington told the jury if Corgi Hosiery had been unsure as to whether asbestos was present then the company was required by law to assume it was and to proceed accordingly.

Dragon Cladding, and its manager, Stuart Phillips, 25, of Llangadog, had already admitted breaching health and safety at work regulations.

Both companies are expected to be sentenced next month.

Prince Charles, who awarded Corgi Hosiery a Royal Warrant in 1989, visited the company in June, 2010.

On its website, the company says the warrant is regarded "with enormous pride by everyone at Corgi".

Clarence House had no comment to make on the case.

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