Officials claimed school had been cleared of asbestos to save themselves from doing assessment..
Two men have been prosecuted after an investigation revealed that they had colluded in order to falsify a record that claimed a school in Abingdon had all asbestos safely removed.
Asbestos was discovered by an engineer who visited the school in order to carry out plumbing work putting himself and others at risk of exposure to the dangerous material. He proceeded to contact the Health and Safety Executive and the subsequent investigation revealed the falsified records and deception of the two accused men.
Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard that the offense had been committed on Sunday 25 July 2010 by the two men who worked in the asbestos regulation industry. It is thought that their motivation for this behaviour was simply to save themselves some work. Howver the consequences of neglecting asbestos awareness issues can be potentially life-threatening for those in the proximity of the deadly fibres.
Just two days later engineers arrived at the school to carry out some maintenance on a boiler and their supervisor quickly became concerned by the presence of asbestos materials in the school.
The HSE investigation found that records had been signed off on an asbestos assessment job but after using GPS tracking they learned that the van of the man who had been tasked to carry out the asbestos assessment had not visited the school on the day in question.
The man admitted that he had fabricated the evidence along with a work colleague and they were fined a total of £5000 in addition to costs of £1250 after both of them pleaded guilty to a breach of of Section 7 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act.
HSE Inspector Andrew Moore commented after the hearing:
“This was an unusual fraud, the first of its type that I am aware of. It was only detected thanks to knowledge and perseverance, and the use of GPS technology.
“It was also a serious fraud as it may have exposed other workers coming on to the school site to the very real dangers of inhalation of asbestos fibres.
“I can only have an educated guess at what motivated these two to collude in this fashion. For one, it was his last day at the company and it was a Sunday. For the other it was perhaps also the temptation of finishing work early as contractors have to wait for analysts to finish their assessment on site – and stay to put right anything that needs action.
“HSE takes exposure to asbestos very seriously. Currently 4,000 people die every year from asbestos-related disease and the onset of these debilitating diseases can occur many years after exposure. That is why there are clear rules and regulations governing its removal and site decontamination, and that is why HSE will prosecute those who flout the legislation.”
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