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A window replacement firm has been found guilty of exposing unprotected and untrained workers to asbestos while working on a contract at a school.

The company, Frames Conservatories Direct Ltd (FCDL), was replacing window units at Westley Middle School in East Anglia. Before starting work, FCDL advised the school that asbestos panels would be properly removed throughout school holidays.

However, the firm did not have a license to handle asbestos. The court in Bury St. Edmunds also heard that the workers were not advised that asbestos would be handled. Whether or not the workers were provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) has not been reported.

The court also head that the issue was only noticed by another contractor raising concerns. A licensed asbestos contractor confirmed the presence of fibres, with work being stopped straight away.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) was alerted to the incident by FCDL workers and the headteacher at the school, launching its investigation.

Sealed off, the work continued under controlled conditions, with extensive cleaning and testing carried out by licensed workers before the school could be given the all clear.

The incident left the school over £100,000 out of pocket, after it had to pay for cleaning and the disposal of contaminated items.

After the court proceedings, the HSE Inspector on the case, Elizabeth Fowle, said:

“This incident has been extremely stressful for those affected and has also been disruptive and costly for the school.

“It was extremely fortunate that this work took place during the school holiday which meant that there were no pupils on site.”

The court fined FCDL £24,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £10,571.

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