Royal FloraHolland in Aalsmeer, The Netherlands, acted unlawfully by exposing employees for years to working conditions that could be harmful to their health. That ruling was made by the Amsterdam subdistrict court on January 19 in a lawsuit filed by the Office of Occupational Diseases FNV on behalf of about 15 workers exposed to asbestos. All are now working for the organization CBRE, which is now responsible for the management and maintenance of the Royal FloraHolland sites. FNV reports the news.
FNV executive Jeroen Brandenburg: “This is very good news. We have fought hard, together with our members, to get a ‘declaration for justice’ and establish the truth in this unpalatable case. For years, Royal FloraHolland knew that asbestos had been worked with and exposed employees.”
The ruling applies to all potentially affected workers
Brandenburg: “The FNV is the collective advocate for all employees here. So the judgment applies to all employees who have been exposed to asbestos in the technical service and other departments of Royal FloraHolland, and who are at risk of an asbestos-related disease.”
“No illness has manifested itself at this time, at least to our knowledge, but should it occur, it is now established in advance that there was exposure. Also that Royal FloraHolland, in violation of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, did not adequately protect people and therefore acted unlawfully. So all workers affected by this can appeal to that.”
Reporting to Occupational Diseases Bureau FNV
Because workers were exposed to asbestos unprotected until about 2012, and it can take thirty to forty years for an asbestos-related disease to manifest itself, FNV members who this happens to can still report to Bureau Beroepsziekten FNV. Then, with an appeal to the court’s ruling, Royal FloraHolland or CBRE can be held liable.
Employees came into contact with asbestos regularly and for many years
The company building in the question of Royal FloraHolland – a cooperative organization of and for growers – in Aalsmeer was built in 1972. The original building was approximately 400 meters long, 60 meters wide, and consisted of 9 ‘streets.’ Asbestos-containing building materials were used in the building. Between each street was a ‘pointed roof’ of corrugated asbestos sheets. Gutters ran between the pointed roofs. In addition, an asbestos roof was attached in the import department and at the cask laundry. The building was expanded during the 80s. Asbestos-containing system walls were used for this purpose, so eventually, there were asbestos walls throughout the building. Employees thus came into contact with asbestos regularly and for many years.
Royal FloraHolland has the option to appeal the verdict within three months.
Response Royal FloraHolland
In response to the ruling, Royal FloraHolland announces the following.
“This is a ruling by the judge that concerns employees who performed technical work on the building in Aalsmeer before 2009. The judge did not find that employees were specifically exposed. We regret that employees may have been at risk. Royal FloraHolland recognizes responsibility for the resulting health risks to employees. We have taken note of the ruling and are considering what to do next.”
“We know that asbestos was and sometimes still is present in the old buildings at the auction sites. Asbestos is not prohibited, but we want to get rid of it. Where possible, we have already remediated it. In the past, (former) employees have been in contact with asbestos, and also possibly with asbestos fibers. So it only concerns technical service employees who performed technical work on our buildings before 2009. We attach importance to a healthy working environment.”
“We cannot reverse what has not gone well in the past. Fortunately, to date, no employees or former employees have reported complaints or illnesses related to asbestos exposure. In the event of high-risk work on asbestos-containing material, such as decontamination, at Royal FloraHolland, these activities are now carried out by a certified company in accordance with the currently applicable guidelines, using protective clothing and all the necessary safety precautions.”
Source: FNV / Royal FloraHolland