Boarding school fined after pupils exposed to radon gas
A private school in Bath, Somerset, has been fined £50,000 after exposing two employees, five pupils and two other children to unsafe levels of radioactive radon gas.
The five pupils were exposed to levels of radioactive radon gas almost 8 times the legal limit. Two other children, who were not pupils at the school, were exposed to levels of radon gas almost 14 times the legal limit. And the two employees were exposed to radioactive radon gas ¾ of the legal limit. Exposure to radiation needs to be kept as low as reasonably practicable to prevent serious harm.
Breathing in radon is the second largest cause of lung cancer in the UK resulting in over 1,000 fatal cancers per year. Radon is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas that occurs in rocks and soils, some building materials and water. The ground is the most important source as radon can seep out and build up in houses and indoor workplaces like schools.
The legal limits for radiation exposure in the workplace are defined in The Ionising Radiations Regulations 2017 (IRR17).
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the school knew they had a radon problem as far back as 2007 when they carried out monitoring and installed some remediation to reduce radon levels. However, from 2010 to 2018 the school carried out no subsequent radon monitoring and had no systems in place to ensure radon control measures were adequate. Only following HSE intervention in 2018 did the school find out about their previous radon problem and further radon monitoring and remediation was carried out to reduce radon levels.
After the hearing, HSE Principal Specialist Inspector (Radiation) Stewart Robertson, said: “The fine imposed on Kingswood School Trustees Limited should underline to everyone in the education sector that the courts, and HSE, take a failure to follow the regulations extremely seriously.”
“We will not hesitate to take action against companies, including schools, who do not do all that they should to keep people safe. Every workplace needs to consider radon as a risk to its employees and others.”
Respiratory hazards can be exceedingly dangerous, particularly when a person is exposed over prolonged periods of time.
If you would like advise regarding respiratory hazards in the workplace, or steps you can take to reduce exposure – please get in touch with our Fit2Fit Accredited experts today: