Basildon Crown Court heard that no action was taken to remove asbestos in a boiler room at Stifford Clays Junior School, despite the council being made aware of concerns.
The problem had been discovered in 2004 by a specialist contractor who said that dust and debris found in the boiler room contained asbestos and should be removed immediately under licensed conditions.
However, an HSE inspection in April 2010, found that nothing had been done, even though school staff and contractors regularly entered the boiler room in the intervening six-year period.
The HSE served a Prohibition Notice on 24 April 2010 barring entry to the boiler house until it was made safe.
Thurrock Council was also served with two Improvement Notices regarding the management of asbestos in its schools elsewhere in the authority. It was fined a total of £35,000 and ordered to pay £15,326 in costs after pleading guilty to a Regulation 10 breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2006) and a breach of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 – both in relation to failings across the school estate.
The council also admitted a Regulation 11 breach of CAR 2006 in relation to Stifford Clays Junior School.
Samantha Thomson, HSE inspector, said: “This was a clear example of a local authority failing to manage asbestos across its schools for a number of years.
“At Stifford Clays Junior School, the caretaker…will have been exposed to asbestos fibres and now faces an anxious wait to see if it results in any long-term health issues.”
A spokesman for Thurrock Council, said: “The council accepts the allegation and the outcome of the case. It has taken appropriate action since this issue came to light and the court was informed of this. Since the HSE visit – in April 2010 – the responsible personnel have changed, the council has revised its policies and procedures and implemented a rigorous training and monitoring regime.”