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Fine for Lincoln University

21/11/11: Due to an act of apathy on the part of an institution and for putting contractors, students and staff at risk of asbestos exposure, Lincolnshire University has been fined.

Attention was brought to the asbestos failings on February the 24th 2010. A lecturer found herself stuck in a room after the lock to the door was broken. After gaining the help and assistance of one of her co-workers she was freed from the room. Upon her release they both noticed that there was debris around the door handle. The two staff members reported it to the University’s health and safety department.

Lincoln’s health and safety department inspected the door and others close by where they discovered that almost all of them had asbestos insulating board lining (AIB). It is used to insulate doors so they do not lose as much heat by transferring it from the warmer rooms to the colder corridors. It also has insulation properties that help slow the spread of fire through a building. They also noticed that some had sustained damage, exposing the asbestos.

Lincoln University informed the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) who carried out their own in depth investigation. The subsequent findings were that Lincoln University had not taken the required action to isolate and remove the asbestos threat. The HSE identified that a number of asbestos surveys had been carried out in various areas of the entire University’s estate over several years. Where asbestos was found, the university had failed to remedy the situation. Areas were discovered to have asbestos materials within or asbestos debris.

The University of Higher Education Corporation in Lincoln entered a plea of guilty to breaching the regulation 5(1) of the Management of health and safety at work act of 1999. They entered the plea at Lincolns Magistrates court where upon a fine of £10,000 was handed down to the University. Lincoln University was then ordered to pay costs of £12,759.

The inspector for HSE Mr. Edward Walker commented that asbestos exposure is becoming more and more well known for the large health hazard it presents, which results in approximately four thousand deaths per year.

The University had identified various areas of asbestos contamination and had a management plan but the plan was not followed and there was a failure to safely isolate and remove the asbestos after discovering its existence. Appropriate steps were not taken to manage the risks associated with asbestos throughout the period the University was aware of the dangers. Lack of action potentially exposed contractors, staff and students.