Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 December 2014

Grammar school Bloomfield Collegiate admits asbestos health breaches

Jill Keery leaves court after pleading guilty on behalf of the school board of governors
Jill Keery leaves court after pleading guilty on behalf of the school board of governors

A Northern Ireland grammar school has pleaded guilty to health and safety breaches relating to its management of asbestos.

Jill Keery appeared at Belfast Crown Court yesterday as an appointed representative on behalf of the school board of governors of Bloomfield Collegiate.

She pleaded guilty to failing to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises by not having a suitable asbestos survey carried out on the preparatory school housed within the grounds of the Astoria Gardens premises in east Belfast.

The appointed representative also pleaded guilty to failing to ensure that non-employees were not exposed to the risks of asbestosis.

The offences were committed between June 1, 2011 and May 21, 2012 under the Health and Safety at Work (Northern Ireland) Order 1978.

No plea was entered on the third count of failing to ensure the health and safety of all employees.

Defence barrister Jonpaul Shields told Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland that a decision would be made next week on how to proceed on the third charge. As a result, Judge McFarland adjourned sentencing until next week.

The private primary school at Bloomfield Collegiate was built in the late 1960s and was used up until the summer of 2011.

However, it was also used as an after-schools facility, a pre-school for children under primary age and a a kindergarten.

The building was used regularly by girls from the main school along with teachers, cleaners and administration staff. Since April 1, 2004, following the introduction of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order, there has been a duty on those who own or control premises to carry out a survey to identify if any asbestos materials are present.

However, it wasn't until May 21, 2012 that the school carried out a survey on the preparatory school which uncovered asbestos-containing materials.

Four days later the Health and Safety Executive's scientific services carried out a survey and found high levels of asbestos fibres in the air. They also found asbestos debris in the back of some cupboards.

The survey found that staff, contractors and children using the building were at risk of exposure to the asbestos.

Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK.

When fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases.

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