Department for Education ‘exposed staff to asbestos risk’ at derelict Runcorn property

A regulator has revealed it reprimanded the Department For Education (DfE) in the 2000s over failing to protect staff from exposure to asbestos during remediation works, the Liverpool Echo has reported.

The Health And Safety Executive (HSE), in a reply to a request from Halton Lea ward councillor Dave Thompson, said it slapped the DfE with a Crown Censure after having already issued a prohibition notice and an improvement notice.

Cllr Thompson had initially asked if the HSE had received and statutory notices such as ‘ASB5’ asbestos removal notifications. He said the building is ‘asbestos-ridden’.

East Lane House, pictured above, has been vacant since 2008 and has been derelict for years. It also has been the subject of ongoing planning wrangling and controversy.

A DfE spokesman said it would not be possible to comment on something that happened so long ago as it would be difficult to find the management involved. He said:

“With regard to our duties to DfE staff, we comply wherever possible with the HSE, that’s our current stance.”

The HSE spokesman said:

“HSE has a normal retention policy of seven years. However, with regards to ASB5 notifications (paper form), any would have been retained for six months after any work had been completed, and then destroyed.

From October 1, 2014, (the HSE) changed the ASB5 notification process and I have not been able to find no existing or remaining ASB5 notifications for that property. However, I can confirm that HSE did issue Crown Censure against the DfE in 2002 after issuing both a prohibition and improvement notice.

The censure was for the following:

‘Between April 1999 and August 2002, failure to ensure that employees and others were not exposed to risks to their health and safety from asbestos during and after maintenance work carried out in March 2000 and March 2001 at East Lane House, Runcorn, and failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.

Failure to prevent or reduce to the lowest level reasonably practicable, by measures other than respiratory protective equipment, exposure of employees and others to asbestos.’ ”