AROUND 50 workers were sent home from a Bury factory this week amid an asbestos scare.

Staff claim the action, by management at Excelsior Rotational Mouldings, came two years after they initially voiced concerns over the possible dangers posed by the substance.

The area where the asbestos is located has now been cordoned off and work is under way to remove and replace the panels.

Nightshift and dayshift employees were able to return to work less than 24 hours later, after analysts had given the all clear.

Workers claim they first raised fears about asbestos when the company originally moved into the premises in Deal Street in 1998, a claim denied by the management.

One employee, who asked not to be named, said: "The asbestos sheeting is near the stores and canteen.

"Many of us regularly use the stores and it's right next door to a toilet!" He claimed that workers had regularly raised the issue with management, but to no avail.

Meanwhile, many are still worried about the possible health implications of the asbestos.

"Since we've been in there, we've all been exposed to it. If one piece gets into the lungs, then it can manifest itself," added the worker.

It was the Tuesday evening/ Wednesday morning (Jan 23-24) employees who were sent home after clocking-on.

Operations director Mr Mark Wood said: "The nightshift and dayshift were sent home as a precautionary measure as we had an area where there was suspected damaged asbestos panels.

"The area was sealed off and the panels are being removed and replaced. It's been proved there is almost no risk whatsoever."

He denied that workers had regularly brought up the issue of the substance during the past two years.

"No-one from the shop floor has ever raised concerns with production management about asbestos.

"What happened this week was a false alarm but staff were quite right to bring it to the attention of the production manager."

Mr Wood went on: "There was an instance of removing asbestos in the middle of last year as part of a process of replacing a damaged roof."

After this week's scare, analysts took air samples in the vicinity of the asbestos and gave the all clear.

"But the panels still have to be replaced," concluded Mr Wood.