Canterbury Crown Court last week ordered the Cheshire-based firm to pay the fine and costs after the company pleaded guilty to two separate breaches of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974.
The case was brought after a refurbishment of the Grand Burstin Hotel in Folkestone was judged to have put both workers and hotel guests at risk of exposure to asbestos.
According to the HSE, the court heard that the company failed to ensure a full asbestos assessment was undertaken before work began on a wing of the 550-bedroom hotel in February 2010.
A surveyor, called to the site after the refurb had started, discovered the widespread presence of asbestos in the eaves of the building. Asbestos was also found on the second floor of the hotel - this was linked to the removal of walls and ceilings as part of the building work.
HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said that by beginning refurbishment work without a full survey, Britannia Hotels had put a number of people at risk: "The company's failure to deal with the asbestos could have resulted in up to 22 workers being exposed to asbestos from the outset of the project until the end of July 2010," he said.
After the asbestos was discovered the HSE was notified and a licensed contractor was called in to remove the material, seal off the contaminated area and prevent the spread of the fibres.
It is not yet known whether any workers or guests were affected. However the HSE said due to the nature of asbestos-related illnesses, symptoms of serious diseases may take years to develop.
"Although guests did not have direct access to the floors where asbestos was found, it is possible that the fibres may have spread into areas that were still open to them. The simple fact is that because of the company’s failures, both guests and workers have been put at risk, and they now face an uncertain future.
The HSE is now urging all hospitality businesses considering refurbishments to ensure they take the proper precautions to avoid risk to health as well as potential prosecutions and fines.
"This situation was wholly avoidable and I hope today’s prosecution also highlights the need to ensure that workers are given the appropriate training to ensure that asbestos is properly managed and dealt with," Stancliffe concluded.
Britannia Hotels was contacted for comment but did not respond by the time of publication.