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COUNCIL IGNORED THREAT OF ASBESTOS IN SCHOOLS

Prosecution and £50k bill follows failure to manage asbestos

Thurrock Council has been fined after admitting to failures in how it managed asbestos across its schools. Basildon Crown Court heard (1 March 2013) that no action was taken despite being made aware of asbestos concerns in a boiler room at a junior school.

A specialist contractor carrying out an asbestos survey in 2004 said that dust and debris found in the boiler room containing asbestos fibres should be removed immediately under licensed conditions. An HSE inspection in April 2010 found that nothing had been done despite school staff and contractors regularly entering the room over the intervening six years.

HSE served a Prohibition Notice on 24 April 2010 barring entry to the boiler house until it was made safe. Thurrock Council was also served with two Improvement Notices regarding the management of asbestos in its schools elsewhere in the county.

Management failure across schools for a number of years

Thurrock Council, of  Grays, Essex, was fined a total of £35,000 and ordered to pay £15,326 in costs after pleading guilty to a Regulation 10 breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2006) and a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – both in relation to failings across the school estate.

The council also admitted a Regulation 11 breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2006) in relation to the specific incident at Stifford Clays Junior School.

After the hearing HSE inspector Samantha Thomson, said:

“This was a clear example of a local Authority failing to manage asbestos across its schools for a number of years.

At Stifford Clays Junior 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. Thurrock 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.”

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