School asbestos incident ‘forgotten’ about for days

Picture: Bill Harrison/geograph.org.uk
Picture: Bill Harrison/geograph.org.uk
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Twenty five people were allowed into a Scottish school for several days after asbestos was disturbed by construction workers, according to a report into the incident.

There was no emergency response to the discovery at Bridge of Don Academy in Aberdeen because a line manager “forgot” about it for five days, the council investigation found.

The redacted report, obtained by the BBC, said teachers, janitors, cleaners and other workers were allowed to enter the school after the asbestos was discovered due to a series of failings.

The material was uncovered during maintenance work on 12 July, when a worker was using a hammer and chisel to remove plasterboard above a set of fire doors.

Concerns were soon raised that the material might contain asbestos, but emergency procedures were not activated until 17 July. In the intervening period it was simply double-bagged and left by a skip. The report said the site was “not safe” as the area had “not been correctly decontaminated and isolated to prevent access by other users of the building”.

After an emergency was declared, a clean up of the area was ordered. Two vehicles which had been used were quarantined so they could be deep cleaned.

Samples from the material later confirmed that they contained brown asbestos, but the report criticised the delay between the discovery and the site being locked down.

“Twenty five persons comprising employees, sub-contractors, janitors, teachers and cleaners have been identified as being on the premises from 12-17 July,” the report said.

Describing a series of “emergency response failures”, it added: “Once the site supervisor notified his line manager about the potential disturbance of AIB [asbestos containing material] on 12 July, existing procedure was not initiated by the site manager because he was following instructions from his line manager.

“Line manager did not initiate procedure because he forgot about the incident until 17 July.”

The report concluded: “Throughout the project, planning has been poor.”

A spokesman for Aberdeen City Council said: “The incident at Bridge of Don Academy has been the subject of an internal investigation and the council is supporting the Health and Safety Executive as it conducts its independent investigation.”