Page last updated at 16:49 GMT, Friday, 28 November 2008

Council fined for sawdust breach

Woodworking tool. Pic by Eyewire Inc
Mr Shand taught woodwork at the school for five years

Stirling Council has been fined 5,000 after exposing a woodwork teacher to high levels of sawdust.

John Shand, who is now teaching biology at Bannockburn High School, developed occupational asthma.

He had served as a technology and design teacher at the school from 2002 until 2007.

Sheriff William Gilchrist said he would have fined the authority more had they not said the money would come from their children's services budget.

The local authority admitted three charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations.

The charges included failing to give proper training to staff exposed to high levels of wood dust during teaching and failing to carry out proper risk assessments.

Any penalty imposed on the council will of course come from public funds and the budget for Children's Services
Bruce Clayson
Defence agent

Fiscal depute Caroline Dickson said Mr Shand contacted Health and Safety Executive officials after being told by his doctor he was suffering from occupational asthma.

She said: "The health and safety inspectors who called at the school found various breaches of the regulations.

"No risk assessments had been carried out, the control mechanisms for exposure to employees were inadequate and there was a lack of training."

Ms Dickson said council officers also attended following concerns raised by other members of staff at the school.

She added: "Council officers could see dust on surfaces which would indicate poor dust control.

"Hard and soft wood dust can cause asthma and cancer. Because of that there is a maximum exposure level.

"The school had not exceeded the maximum, but because they are particularly nasty substances there is a duty to keep exposure as low as possible and that didn't happen."

'Detrimental impact'

Bruce Clayson, defending, told the court Stirling Council had since addressed the problems with new policies and procedures.

However, despite admitting his client deserved a fine, he said any financial penalty would harm children's education.

He added: "It is not disputed at all that the council fell well below what should have been done but the council has put its house in order.

"Any penalty imposed on the council will of course come from public funds and the budget for Children's Services.

"There is pressure on every council. There is a freeze on council tax, the council is feeling the pinch and any fine will be taken from the budget that could be used to improve the education of children in the area."

Sheriff Gilchrist, after a break to consider the effect of imposing a fine on a public body, said: "It is always difficult to fine a public authority as the penalty ultimately comes out of public funds and that can have a detrimental impact on the services offered.

"I also have to respond to the serious nature of the charges. Inevitably, a compromise has to be found.

"I take in to account that Stirling Council has no previous convictions under health and safety legislations.

"Also, that Stirling Council has taken steps to rectify the issues and such risks are now being dealt with."

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