Potentially lethal asbestos has been discovered at Woldingham Girls’ School, an independent school in Caterham.
This health and safety issue led to Buxton Building Contractors Ltd facing a prosecution in Guildford Magistrates’ Court on January 13th 2014, in which it admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and received a fine of £50,000 with costs of £26,217.
The court heard that the asbestos was discovered in the school’s basement. Buxton Building Contractors Ltd was refurbishing the school’s kitchen and dining area when it commissioned a specialist asbestos survey. Although asbestos was found in the building’s undercroft area – an area that had been missed from previous asbestos surveys – the firm failed to act on this information.
Allowing unqualified and untrained staff to work on areas in which asbestos has been discovered is a breach of health and safety laws, and it was discovered that the company had allowed a teenage apprentice electrician and a number of other contractors to access the area, with the electrician working in the undercroft for at least one fortnight.
The workplace safety problem came to the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) attention on July 11th 2011, after a worker exposed asbestos insulation boards after breaking through the ceiling.
A subsequent investigation by the HSE revealed that the company had not acted on the asbestos survey or provided any appropriate health and safety safeguards to workers on-site. However, when the worker discovered the asbestos boards, a licensed contractor sealed off the area.
The company was found to have breached health and safety laws by failing to properly monitor, plan and manage the construction work it was undertaking at the school.
Asbestos health and safety failings
Following the hearing, HSE Inspector Melvyn Stancliffe remarked on the company’s “serious failing”.
He said it appears that although Buxton Building Contractors Ltd commissioned an asbestos survey, it appears that nobody read the survey, or that anyone who did read the survey neglected to adhere to its contents, therefore failing to protect on-site workers from one of the construction industry’s “deadly killers”.
Because of these health and safety failings, there is a chance that people may end up making an industrial illness claim against the company. Mr Stancliffe said that many individuals, including the 19-year-old apprentice electrician, could have potentially inhaled asbestos fibres, expressing his hope that this exposure does not lead to “serious consequences” for the exposed employees in the future.
Asbestos can cause damage to the lungs, and can cause a range of health conditions, some of which can be serious. These include:
- – Mesothelioma
- – Lung cancer
- – Asbestosis
- – Pleural thickening
- – Pleural plaques
These illnesses can take many years or even several decades to appear. People who wish to make a personal injury claim against the employer that exposed them to asbestos may not be able to locate the liable party after several decades. A range of different schemes can help people with asbestos-related conditions claim compensation, such as the diffuse mesothelioma payments scheme.
Hellen works alongside unions and health and safety representatives to drive down the number of back injuries compensation claims and personal injury compensation solicitors. She is also a keen student of UK employment law and keeps an eye on any UK law reviews so he can keep on top of any movements in the area.None found.