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Asbestos lands school with £60,000 fine

17 July 2012

Unsafe removal of asbestos insulation boards has cost independent Sherborne School in Dorset a £60,000 fine.

The school, whose graduates include actors Jeremy Irons and John Le Mesurier, was also ordered to pay £13,000 in costs at the hearing in Dorchester Crown Court.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) prosecuted Sherborne School and Peter Eldridge, director of a company responsible for the refurbishment project at the school.

The court fined Eldridge £10,000 with costs of £6,000 for his neglect as an individual director.

An investigation found the company had failed to identify and prevent the risk of asbestos exposure at the school, according to a statement from the HSE.

Asbestos insulation boards were removed in an unsafe way, exposing building contractors and a teenage work experience student to asbestos fibres. This left them at risk of developing serious and potentially fatal diseases later in life.

The HSE investigation found that from the initial design stages in May 2008 right through to undertaking the construction work in July 2009, there was inadequate planning and a failure to carry out a full asbestos survey.

This was despite the fact that a sample taken from the building in 2008 had identified its presence and asbestos had previously been removed from other parts of the school. An asbestos register was also kept for the school buildings.

The court heard that neither Eldridge nor the school had appointed a construction design and management co-ordinator for the refurbishment project, despite it being a requirement of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 for a project of this size.

A construction design and management co-ordinator would have ensured a full refurbishment and demolition asbestos survey was completed in advance of construction work, the HSE statement said. Licensed asbestos contractors could then have been appointed to safely remove it.

HSE Inspector Joanna Teasdale said their actions put at least one teenager at unnecessary risk of being exposed to asbestos fibres.

"Although Sherborne School was the client, it still had a duty to manage the control of asbestos on its site, and to be aware of the requirements of removing asbestos safely,” she said.

Other graduates of the school include Enigma code breaker Alan Turing, Chris Martin, co-founder of the rock group Coldplay, author David Cornwell - aka John LeCarre - and London Mayor Boris Johnson's father, Stanley Johnson.