Chad Varah House

The University of Lincoln has been fined for not properly dealing with asbestos on campus between July 2007 and February 2010. The university has to pay a fine of £10,000 and costs of £12,760.

In February 2010, a door lock broke in Chad Varah House trapping a lecturer, and when freed by a colleague they noticed grey powder around the handle. They notified the university, who found that several of the doors in the building had asbestos insulating board, a common feature of older buildings for fire-proofing.

Asbestos materials in good condition are safe, however when materials are damaged asbestos fibres can become airborne and can result in diseases which cause around 4,000 deaths a year.

The Health and Safety Executive investigated and found that the university surveyed the buildings in 2006 and 2007. These classified the asbestos in the lining of some doors as low and medium risk, but there was no evidence that any work was done to remedy the situation.

The University of Lincoln had a plan to deal with asbestos since 2004 but there was also no evidence it was implemented until the 2010 incident.

Asbestos was also found in Greestone Court, the Old Hall and Wordsworth Hall.

Edward Walker, inspector at the Health and Safety Executive, said: “The university had an asbestos management plan but had failed to take appropriate steps to manage the risk associated with asbestos over a number of years, putting staff, students and contractors at risk of potential exposure.”

The University of Lincoln pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 at Lincoln Magistrates’ Court.

Neil Cameron, the university’s barrister, said he “couldn’t fully explain” why no work was carried out, saying that the “responsibility fell between two departments, Health and Safety and Estate Managements”. He said that the fault did not lie with one person, but two members of staff who faced disciplinary action have resigned since the incident.

Cameron stressed that since the incident in 2010, the university has dealt with the situation with contractors brought in to remove some of the asbestos. All university buildings have been resurveyed with only low risk asbestos left and new procedures have been put in place and that the university fully complies with the current regulations.