Asbestos risks highlighted in school prosecution

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Dutyholders in public and commercial buildings have been reminded of the importance of undertaking proper asbestos surveys before commencing refurbishment projects.

The warning came after an Essex school was fined £26,000 and ordered to pay costs of £20,000 when it emerged that staff had been exposed to asbestos over a number of years due to poorly planned maintenance work.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) officials were alerted to problems at The Boswells School in Chelmsford after asbestos was disturbed during a project to convert an old boiler room into a cleaning store. Unaware of the presence of asbestos containing materials, caretakers had simply swept up the contaminated debris.

During the subsequent investigation HSE inspectors found that both school staff and maintenance contractors had been at risk for many years because they had not been alerted to the fact that asbestos was contained in the fabric of the building, meaning no plan was implemented to prevent fibres being disturbed and spread.

The Boswells Academy Trust pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 - Sections 2(1) & 3(1) - at Chelmsford Crown Court, and was fined £26,000.

HSE inspector Glyn Davis said: “This prosecution should act as a reminder, not just to schools but to all persons in control of the repair and maintenance of non-domestic premises, of the need to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk from asbestos is carried out, and that correct control measures are put in place to ensure that exposure to asbestos is prevented, so far as is reasonably practicable.”

He added that the school management should have organised a survey to identify the type, location and condition of asbestos containing materials in the building and used that information to plan safe working; including hiring a licensed asbestos contractor to remove dangerous materials before the commencement of refurbishment and maintenance jobs.

BLS Asbestos is licensed to remove asbestos and transport hazardous materials, and has vast experience of working in schools and public buildings, as well as commercial premises.

Call 01484 400558 or contact us via the website to request a quote for an asbestos survey and/or asbestos removal work.

Published: 3rd August 2016