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A school trust in Essex has been fined for poorly-planned and managed refurbishment and maintenance after staff and others were exposed to potentially harmful asbestos during the conversion of one of their buildings.

Managers at The Boswells School in Chelmsford had decided to convert an old boiler room at the school into a cleaning store. Chelmsford Crown Court heard how during the course of the work asbestos residue in the old walls was disturbed and then swept up by the caretakers without any kind of protection from the potentially fatal dust. The exposure was only discovered after the event when an asbestos survey was completed in the area of the school.

The Health and Safety Executive investigated the incident and learned that asbestos containing materials were also present in other areas of the school. Caretaking staff and contractors disturbed the fabric of school buildings over many years without being alerted to the presence of ACM’s. Anyone who entered potentially contaminated areas was placed at risk of developing serious ill health conditions arising from exposure to airborne asbestos fibres. The school also failed to ensure that spread of asbestos was prevented or reduced.

HSE Inspector Glyn Davies said after the hearing: “The Boswells Academy Trust should have controlled this potentially lethal risk by identifying the type, location and condition of any asbestos-containing-materials within the fabric of the school, and by implementing suitable precautions to prevent its disturbance. It should then have ensured that such information was shared with anyone liable to disturb this fabric. It may also have arranged for a licensed asbestos contractor to remove any dangerous asbestos safely before commencement of any work. This prosecution should act as a reminder, not just to schools but to all persons in control of the repair and maintenance of non-domestic premises, of the need to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk from asbestos is carried out, and that correct control measures are put in place to ensure that exposure to asbestos is prevented, so far as is reasonably practicable.”

If you or someone you know has been put at risk of developing serious illness due to exposure to asbestos, either in their workplace or any other public situation, you should contact one of our solicitors today. We have years of experience in handling these types of cases and should swiftly be able to get you the compensation you deserve.