New School closes due to Safety Concerns

It is not great to read that a School closes due to Safety Concerns. This is disruptive to the pupils and immensely frustrating to their families.  A brand new, state-of-the-art School in Dumfries has closed on safety grounds, just a month after opening. This follows two safety incidents at the North West Community Campus.

In the latest incident, a pupil was reportedly hit by an interactive whiteboard which had been mounted to a wall. The boy was not seriously injured. In response Graham (the contractors for the project) conducted an investigation and concluded that “excessive force” had been used on the smart screen.

A statement from Dumfries and Galloway council read:

Dumfries and Galloway Council has taken the immediate decision to close the North West Community Campus until independent assurances can be given on the safety of the building.

We have reached a stage where the Council has lost confidence in any assurances we have been given in relation to the building. We understand and share the anger and frustration of pupils, parents and our staff. Our only concern is their safety.

We are appalled by this latest incident and will not be re-opening the school until we are absolutely confident and have the independent third party assurances that every bolt, screw and fitting has been checked, double checked and is certified safe.

The incident comes just a couple of weeks after a different pupil suffered ‘superficial bruising’ when she was hit by a sliding door, which came off its rails. On that occasion, the school was shut for two days.

A School closes due to Safety Concerns – the school has had issues right from the outset: part of a ceiling reportedly collapsed prior to opening, due to the failing of a sprinkler system.

Local Council fined after workers exposed to asbestos in a Primary School

Asbestos in a Primary School – Kent County Council (KCC) has today been fined £200,000 after asbestos was disturbed at Lansdowne Primary School. Canterbury Crown Court heard how, in November 2014, an environmental health officer was carrying out a routine food inspection when they noticed what looked like an asbestos rope hanging from the ceiling.

A prohibition notice was served on the now independent educational trust. An investigation found that the asbestos flue and rope were disturbed when it was under the control of the County Council 18 months beforehand.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the flue and gasket rope were attached to a steriliser unit that had been removed by the caretaker. The investigation also found that neither the caretaker nor the head teacher had any asbestos management or awareness training. The council failed to effectively prevent exposure to asbestos and failed to provide suitable training to those liable to be exposed to asbestos. In this case (as in many others), Asbestos in a Primary School happened because people were not sufficiently knowledgeable.

Kent County Council pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 10 (1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £21,500.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Kevin Golding said

The Council had implemented a system, but they had failed to take the simple step of checking to ensure it was being rigorously adhered to, resulting in employees not receiving the appropriate training. Organisations should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.

According to an investigation into asbestos in schools by the BBC, 32 councils in England have settled claims from 220 retired teachers, school staff and ex-pupils in the last ten years.

Asbestos containing metal gauze products supplied to schools

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that it has been made aware that two UK Laboratory Supply companies have supplied schools (and potentially other users) with gauze mats that contain asbestos. These metal gauze mats are designed for use over Bunsen burners.

The HSE has served enforcement notices on both companies.

A spokesperson for the HSE spokesperson commented:

Although the risk of exposure is low, we took action as soon as we were informed. HSE Inspectors ensured supply of the asbestos-containing gauze mats stopped immediately. We got the message out as soon as possible and alerted schools, colleges and others to the issue, providing precautionary advice on how to check if they are affected and if so what to do next.

Our investigation into the circumstances that led to these particular gauze mats coming into circulation is on-going. As part of this, HSE inspectors have served enforcement notices on both companies to ensure that all affected mats are disposed of safely.