Asbestos Found in Caterham Girls School

School asbestos find irks HSE 25827

A building contractor has been fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after Asbestos was found in a school.

Buxton Building Contractors, which was brought in to carry out refurbishment work at the site in 2011, used a specialist surveying company to see if the undercroft of Woldingham Girls Independent School in Caterham contained Asbestos.

It is not thought pupils were put at risk.

However, despite inspectors finding a substantial deposit of Asbestos, managers at the firm failed to act and a number of different contractors were allowed to work in the area.

One of those potentially exposed to dangerous levels of Asbestos was a teenage apprentice, who was made to work on the project until a colleague raised the alarm when he broke through a ceiling and found asbestos insulation boarding.

After being informed of the incident, the HSE took Buxton Building Contractors to Court.

HSE Inspectors took issue with the fact that no action was taken on Asbestos, despite the fact its presence was known; something that is against long-standing industry regulation pertaining to Asbestos.

It was concluded by the HSE that workers were put at unnecessary risk of harm and when these charges were brought against Buxton Building Contractors. It pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

After the hearing ended, HSE inspector Melvyn Stancliffe said, "This was a serious failing on the part of the company. Having correctly commissioned an Asbestos survey, it looks as though no one at Buxton Contractors bothered to read it. 

"Or if they did, they disregarded its contents and failed to act to protect site workers from exposure to Asbestos; one of the deadly killers in the construction industry."

Mr Stancliffe added he hopes those involved do not suffer from serious Asbestos-related illnesses, including Mesothelioma in the future.

By Chris Stevenson