Warning for schools as large fine handed out due to asbestos exposure

Posted by John Mitchell on
Schools were reminded again of the need to have adequate management plans for the control of asbestos and for the need to carry out appropriate asbestos surveys when undertaking maintenance work as a school found itself receiving a large fine in Dorchester Crown Court recently.

Sherborne School, a large independent boys school in the town of Sherborne, were undertaking a refurbishment project of a boarding house.

Although there was an asbestos register kept for the school buildings the school failed to obtain a full asbestos survey for the building being renovated and therefore were found in breach of their duty to manage the control of asbestos on its site.

During the refurbishment project asbestos behind wall panels was removed and broken up by contractors, including a teenager on work experience and these workers were therefore put at unnecessary risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

Although the school had appointed a designer neither the designer nor the school had appointed a Construction, Design and Management (CDM) co-ordinator for the refurbishment project who would have ensured that a full refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey was completed in advance of the construction works.

Licensed asbestos contractors could then have been appointed to remove it.

Sherborne School was fined a total of £60,000 and were ordered to pay £13,000 in costs. The designer, Peter Eldridge, was found guilty of failing to avoid foreseeable risks in his design and commencing work before a CDM co-ordinator had been appointed. He was fined £10,000 with costs of £6,000.

It is well known that school buildings, particularly those built in the 50s, 60s and 70s are likely to contain asbestos and schools are therefore reminded of the need to ensure that they comply with their duty to manage the control of asbestos on their sites and be aware of the requirements of removing asbestos safely.

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John specialises in risk and compliance, advising businesses in those areas of commercial life where the criminal law or penal sanctions are used to regulate business.

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