Unite the union has today (28 November) reacted to a scathing report by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) into the refurbishment work at the Bridge of Don Academy. The HSE report highlights a catalogue of health and safety material breaches by Aberdeen city council officials.

The report notes that after the discovery of potentially asbestos containing material by a worker in a doorway: ‘No action was taken to deal with any potential contamination of the area or the individuals’. It took a further five days before action was taken to inform the action control team. During this period there were a ‘significant number of people working in and transiting through the area’ before the doorway was sealed-off. The major breaches occurred despite Unite repeatedly raising concerns with the council’s senior officials over the previous 12 months when other management of asbestos related incidents had occurred.

A series of contraventions in relation to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 2002 and the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015 are identified by the HSE. These include:

  • ‘No consideration’ given to whether there may be asbestos containing materials present in the frame of a fire door.
  • Despite the next level in the chain of command being alerted of the potential asbestos material ‘no apparent consideration’ was given by any of those involved to the possibility of personal contamination or contamination of the area.
  • The incident was ‘not brought to the attention’ of the risk control team who have training in dealing with the appropriate emergency procedures.
  • Notification was made through e-mail not by telephone and there was ‘no query’ on whether the material had been disturbed or why the sample was required.
  • There was ‘no indication’ of the likely timescale for response in the procedures, and ‘none was provided’ by either the architect or the contract manager.
  • People regularly accessed the area who were ‘unaware’ of any issues. Even after the problem had been identified, the arrangements to communicate this to other affected groups such as facilities were ‘severely lacking’; and
  • There ‘should not’ have been unauthorised access inside the work area and if necessary alternative security arrangements should have been implemented to avoid the need for Facilities staff to access the area.

Tommy Campbell, Unite regional industrial officer, said: “The HSE have carried out their work diligently, and they must be thanked for that. The report on the asbestos incident at the Bridge of Don Academy is absolutely scathing. The procedures put in place to deal with potential asbestos material were woeful, and in fact represented a threat to public safety. Unite has repeatedly raised our concerns that exposure to asbestos is not being robustly and strongly responded to when incidents occur in line with health and safety procedures. It’s our belief that the Bridge of Don Academy incident is not a one-off but symptomatic of a casual approach to the safety of workers and the public. Aberdeen City Council clearly requires an investigation into its health and safety procedures, whether they are the best placed to do this in light of this evidence is highly debatable to say the least.”

Unite the union has been campaigning after the ineffective response by Aberdeen city council officials on the safety risk to their employees and to the public following several asbestos incidents at the Bridge of Don Academy, Hazelwood Academy and at residential properties. Unite raised a Freedom of Information (FOI) request on 28 August with Aberdeen City Council in response to a number of the recent asbestos incidents.

ENDS

For more information contact Tommy Campbell on the recent Aberdeen City Council incidents on 07810157920.

  • Unite Scotland is the country’s biggest and most diverse trade union with around 150,000 members. The union is led in Scotland by Pat Rafferty