THURROCK Council has been fined for ignoring the asbestos hazard in a number of 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.
The failing was identified by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in response to a 2004 survey that found dust and debris containing asbestos fibres were present in the boiler room.
The council was told to arrange for the immediate removal of the material under licensed conditions. However, a HSE inspection in April 2010, as part of a national initiative monitoring asbestos in a number of local authority controlled schools, 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 was fined a total of £35,000 and ordered to pay £15,326 in costs after pleading guilty to two breaches of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006 and a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
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.
“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.”