Council in court for ignoring asbestos threat in school

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Thurrock Council has been fined after admitting to failures in how it managed asbestos across its schools.

Basildon Crown Court heard today (1 March 2013) that despite being made aware of asbestos concerns in a boiler room at Stifford Clays Junior School, no action was taken.

A specialist contractor tasked with carrying out an asbestos survey by the council in 2004 said that dust and debris found in the boiler room containing asbestos fibres should be removed immediately under licensed conditions.

However, an HSE inspection in April 2010, as part of a national initiative to ensure that local authorities understand their duties in managing asbestos across their school estate, found that nothing had been done.

This was despite school staff and contractors alike regularly entering the boiler room in the intervening six year period.

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.

Thurrock Council, of Civic Offices, New Road, 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.”
Notes to editors

The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk[1]
Regulation 5 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states: “(1) Every employer shall make and give effect to such arrangements as are appropriate, having regard to the nature of his activities and the size of his undertaking, for the effective planning, organisation, control, monitoring and review of the preventive and protective measures. (2) Where the employer employs five or more employees, he shall record the arrangements referred to in paragraph (1).
Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006 states: “10 (1) Every employer must ensure that any employee employed by that employer is given adequate information, instruction and training where that employee is or is liable to be exposed to asbestos, or if that employee supervises such employees.”
Regulation 11(1) of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006 states: “Every employer shall prevent the exposure of his employees to asbestos so far as is reasonably practicable.”

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Regional reporters should call the appropriate Regional News Network press office[2].

Issued on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive by the Regional News Network

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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