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The Criminal Sale Of Safes & Cabinets Containing Asbestos In Ireland (Video)

The Criminal Sale Of Safes & Cabinets Containing Asbestos In Ireland

After a short investigation in late 2019 The Law Society Gazette publishes our findings in July '19. The Health And Safety Authority issue a public notice in October '19, the topic is discussed extensively at the ESSA conference in November '19.

The issue of asbestos in safes, document and filing cabinets has been swept under the carpet by vested interests in the safe supply industry in Ireland and the UK for far too long. Safe suppliers and private sellers in Ireland are still supplying and openly advertising safes and cabinets that have been flagged by the HSA as presumed to contain asbestos and are using a variety of official looking documents to sell them. It is now obvious that safes and fire-resistant cabinets containing asbestos are common on the second-hand market in Ireland and are present in countless businesses across the country. Most of these units are being used by unsuspecting clients and office staff who are risking exposure to asbestos fibres on a daily basis.

Asbestos Is A Killer:

Chrysotile asbestos fibres, which in the case of safe and vault manufacturing are the main type of asbestos we are concerned with, are carcinogenic if inhaled. Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres that may result from the day to day opening and closing of a safe, vault or filing cabinet door, fitted with asbestos door seals can lead to serious asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos can also be particularly dangerous when incorporated as an anti-combustion filling material or cement within the body of a safe, fire cabinet or vault.

Any older safe, fire cabinet or vault is quite likely to have a lock-out event at some stage, due to its age. On many occasions, this requires the body, or door, to be drilled. There has been little to no awareness among safe technicians, locksmiths and their clients that in drilling a unit that contains asbestos cement, fibre board or filling, the resulting dust is highly carcinogenic and a potent danger to the health of clients and safe technicians alike, possibly leading to diseases such as asbestosis and cancers of the lungs and chest lining.

Why Ireland Has So Many Safes, Vaults And Fire Cabinets Containing Asbestos:

Asbestos was banned at different times across Europe over a period of roughly twenty years and Ireland was one of the last European countries to introduce such a ban. The staggered nature of European asbestos bans starting in Denmark in 1980 and ending with the U.K. in 1999 and the Republic of Ireland in 2000 had what can best be described as a funnelling effect for contaminated safes, fire cabinets and vaults, with Ireland, more or less, at the end of that funnel.

As the majority of the safe and vault industry in Europe was concerned with the consequences of this life-threatening issue and how best to address it, others saw a gold-plated opportunity. With costs associated with asbestos disposal and a lower level of general awareness across Europe when it came to the issue of asbestos in safes, fire cabinets and vaults, huge quantities of these contaminated products were exported for “recycling” from countries that had introduced asbestos bans to countries where bans had yet to be introduced.

In Ireland’s case, importation of contaminated safes, fire cabinets and vaults, via the U.K. has happened on an industrial scale. These units destined for homes, offices and financial institutions in every part of the country.

The Perfect Business Model:

The people and businesses in Ireland who have traded, and continue to trade, in uncertified legacy safes and vaults have had a fairly unique business model over the last twenty years. Not only has the core product had little buy-in cost apart from the occasional re-spray or new lock but if a safe is sent for disposal in Ireland, it is usually the case that the trader gets paid to remove the safe, fire cabinet or vault, by its previous owner. Most safes, fire cabinets and vaults sent for disposal in Ireland, whether from private owners, government or financial institutions end up back on the market being sold by safe supply businesses or through classified ad websites.

As there is usually no documentation related to a unit after removal from a site, a great many safes, fire cabinets and vaults which may contain asbestos or other carcinogens are also sold into the black economy. This is the ultimate low-cost business model that has allowed some prominent safe and vault businesses to undercut their law-abiding counterparts, building highly profitable businesses based on irresponsible and criminal behaviour.

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