Council informed of asbestos in school boiler room in 2004 but ignored threat …
Thurrock Council has been found guilty of failing to safely deal with and manage the threats posed by asbestos exposure in schools in the area.
Basildon Crown Court was told that the Council failed to take action despite being informed of concerns about the presence of asbestos material in a boiler room at a local school.
A HSE inspection in 2010, which was part of a nationwide initiative aimed at improving asbestos management, discovered that the Council had failed to act on a contractor’s advice to remove asbestos fibres. The specialist had noted the presence of asbestos fibres in the boiler room all the way back in 2004 and had urged the council to dispose of it immediately but the HSE investigation revealed that this plea had been ignored. It also turned out that in the intervening six year period staff and workmen had regulalry visited the boiler room putting themselves at risk of contracting disease caused by exposure to the asbestos fibres.
The HSE responded to their discovery by serving a Prohibition Notice in April 2010 which forbade entry to the boiler room until the asbestos material had been safely removed and disposed of by licensed personnel. The Council was also served with two IMprovement Notices related to how it managed asbestos in schools elsewhere in the area.
The Court imposed a fine of £35,000 with additional costs of £15,326 after the Council pleaded guilty to breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2006) and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
HSE inspector Samantha Thomson commented after the hearing had reached its verdict:
“This was a clear example of a local Authority failing to manage asbestos across its schools for a number of years.
“At the School, the caretaker regularly worked in the boiler room with dust and debris over a period of six years. She will have been exposed to asbestos fibres and now faces an anxious wait to see if it results in any long-term health issues.
“This was easily preventable. the Council was informed of the potential for exposure in 2004, yet failed to act on the knowledge until HSE’s involvement some six years later.”
Author: Julian Roberts
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