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School Pleads Guilty to Asbestos Health & Safety Breaches

A grammar school in Northern Ireland has pleaded guilty to Health and Safety breaches relating to its management of asbestos.

Last week Belfast Crown Court heard from an appointed representative on behalf of the school board of governors of Bloomfield Collegiate which pleaded guilty to failing to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises by not having a suitable asbestos survey carried out on the preparatory school in east Belfast.

The appointed representative also pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that non-employees were not exposed to the risks of asbestosis.

The offences were committed between 1 June 2011 & 21 May 2012 under the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978. No plea was entered on the third count of failing to ensure the health and safety of all employees.

Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland was advised by Counsel that a decision would be made next week on how to proceed on the third charge. As a result, Judge McFarland adjourned sentencing until next week.

The private primary school at Bloomfield Collegiate was built in the late 1960s and was used up until the summer of 2011. However, it was also used as an after-schools facility, a pre-school for children under primary age, and a kindergarten. The building was used regularly by girls from the main school along with teachers, cleaners and administration staff.  

Since 1 April 2004, following the introduction of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order, there has been a duty on those who own or control premises in Northern Ireland to carry out a survey to identify if any asbestos materials are present.

However, it wasn't until 21 May 2012, several years later, that the school carried out a survey on the preparatory school which discovered asbestos materials.

Four days after the Health and Safety Executive's scientific services carried out a survey, high levels of asbestos fibres were found to have been in the air. They also found asbestos debris in the back of some cupboards. The survey found that staff, contractors and children using the building were at risk of exposure to the asbestos.

Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. When asbestos fibres are inhaled they can cause serious and life threatening illnesses. The latency period can be lengthy and anyone suffering from exposure may not see the development of symptoms for 30 or 40 years. It is possible to make a claim for Asbestos compensation once diagnosed with symptoms.

(Please note that the legal jurisdiction in Northern Ireland is separate to that of England & Wales.)

Tracey Graham is a Personal Injury Solicitor specialising in Asbestos compensation claims at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

For a free consultation call Slater and Gordon on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we'll be happy to help you.

Slater and Gordon Lawyers have offices in London, Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bristol, Birmingham, Milton Keynes, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Halifax, Wakefield & meeting rooms in Bramhall, Cheshire.