Bloomfield Collegiate has been found guilty of health and safety breaches relating to its management of asbestos. A survey of the school buildings found asbestos in shelves, cupboards and in the hallway.
Bloomfield’s board of governors pleaded guilty to three breaches of health and safety law and were fined £7,500, plus costs of £1,750.
In June 2011 the affected buildings were rented out by Bloomfield Collegiate to a nursery. An asbestos survey was carried out on the school in 2004 but not on the smaller buildings that would later house the nursery.
The buildings were also used as an after-schools facility and regularly by girls from the main school along with teachers, administration and cleaners.
It wasn’t until May 21, 2012 that the school carried out a survey which uncovered asbestos-containing materials. The survey found high levels of asbestos in the air and asbestos debris on furniture. It concluded that staff, contractors and children using the building were at risk of being exposed to asbestos.
Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland was notified and conducted a test that discovered “elevated levels” of asbestos. The buildings were immediately closed to pupils as a precaution.
Prosecuting lawyers said the “board was aware there was a potential problem in June 2011, but did not do anything until May the following year.”
However the defence lawyer argued that the Board of Governors believed the buildings were checked during the initial asbestos survey in 2004 and that the principal was extremely proactive when raising the issue in 2011.
The Judge said: “It is clear that the individuals concerned and the members of the board have shown remorse and that it is obvious from the actions that were taken once this material was discovered.”
He added there was never any deliberate intention to expose anyone to the asbestos and that the offences weren’t financially motivated.
It was revealed to the court that the school is undergoing financial difficulties and has no way of raising more money or paying off debts. The school is now controlled by the Department of Education
Asbestos is the single greatest cause of death in UK workplaces and causes serious diseases when inhaled.
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