Kent County Council has been fined £200,000 following asbestos breaches in one of their schools.

The case, which was heard this summer at Canterbury Crown Court, involved refurbishment works in the kitchen of Lansdowne Primary School in Sittingbourne.

Asbestos identified in 2010 and 2012

In reports from 2010 and 2012, asbestos was identified around the flue in the kitchen. The housing around the flue was found to contain amosite and the flue itself contained chrysotile.

  • Amosite & chrysotile are two of the six unique minerals referred to as asbestos.
  • Amosite is commonly known as brown asbestos
  • Chrysotile is commonly known as white asbestos

 The asbestos materials were identified by a surveyor who initially graded the exposed flue as “medium risk”. It was advised that ongoing safe management of the materials in situ was all that was needed at the time but if any works were to disturb the materials it would have to be removed safely. This assessment was later changed and the safe removal of the materials was needed to prevent any potential damaging exposure.

Despite the change in the danger level and the need to remove the asbestos materials, nothing was done for a year and the Health and Safety Executive then closed the kitchen.

Although tests for airbourne asbestos were normal, there was still a risk from the exposed asbestos materials and they should have been removed safely.

The Court Case

The Court heard that the caretaker at the school said he didn’t undergo any asbestos training. However, the head teacher at the time had ticked boxes stating that he had been trained in 2012 and 2013. When questioned as to why the head teacher had done this, her response was “extremely vague”.

The Judge criticised both the former head teacher and caretaker for their failings and urged the Council to introduce asbestos training, although it would then ultimately be down to the head teacher to ensure the training was implemented effectively.

The Council was fined £200,000 and ordered to pay costs of £21,000.

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