Schools, contractors and councils warned of asbestos risk

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has found it necessary to alert local authorities, schools and contractors to the dangers of disturbing asbestos, following a case involving all three groups has led to prosecution.

Peter Westran, director of Horizon Windows and Glass was forced to pay a £5,000 fine after breaching asbestos control regulations when his firm failed to control some asbestos that was disturbed while replacing windows at Silverhill Primary School in Derby in 2004.

Derby City Council has also had to pay a £50,000 fine and £20,000 in solicitors' fees and other costs after breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, as it emerged that it was aware of the presence of asbestos at the school.

Samantha Peace, HSE principal inspector of construction Wales, Midlands and south-west said: "Asbestos can be a killer if disturbed, but if contained and well managed poses no health risk. This is why it is vital that proper records are kept, showing where asbestos may be found and the condition of these materials. This information must be given to anyone who is likely to disturb it.

"If governors and head teachers approve building work directly, they need to ensure that it is done safely and they need to understand their responsibilities. This should be on the agenda of every Local Authority and school governors' meeting."

More than half a million non-domestic premises across Britain and Northern Ireland still contain some form of asbestos.

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