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Prestigious East Lancs boarding school fined £100k for safety breach
A PRESTIGIOUS independent boarding college has been fined £100,000 for ‘inexcusably’ breaching health and safety regulations.
A court heard how the failings at Stonyhurst College, Hurst Green, caused 54-year-old stonemason Terry McGough to develop a terminal lung condition.
The grandfather-of-three was employed by the college for almost 12 years, during which time he was exposed to high levels of silica dust.
His silicosis diagnosis came four months before he was made redundant.
After the sentence, Mr McGough, who has not been able to find work since being made redundant from the £30,000 a year school, said he believed ‘justice has been done’.
The judge was told how Mr McGough and his colleague Oliver Bolton had been exposed to the toxic dust as they worked to preserve the Jesuit college’s sandstone buildings.
The workshop they were in was inadequately ventilated and when Mr McGough asked for conditions to be improved, he said his request was brushed off.
Prosecuting, Craig Morris told Preston Crown Court: “Even after the employee presents with silicosis, there is no attempt to monitor the levels of exposure or to introduce health surveillance.”
A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said an investigation found the stonemasons may have been exposed to more than 80 times the daily limit for silica dust.
Judge Anthony Russell, who also ordered the college to pay the prosecution’s £31,547 costs, said: “There must be a substantial fine to reflect the seriousness of this breach.”
Defending, Lisa Judge said the breach was ‘not born out of a blatant disregard of their statutory health and safety obligations’.
She said: “The college is asset rich, but cash poor.
“It is a privately-funded school and the school is effectively trading at a significant loss and it is only as a result of the investments that effectively the funds of Stonyhurst have not been depleted.”
Judge Russell added he had not been impressed by the college’s attempts to minimise responsibility for Mr McGough’s condition.
Speaking after the hearing, father-of-two Mr McGough said: “I am please justice has been seen to be done. It has been a long fight.
“It is a terrible worry and I am finding it hard to get employment because it is a terminal lung disease.
“Nobody will employ me meaning I am in a financial predicament.
“I have trouble breathing and I cannot play with my grandchildren.
“I would like to bend over and pick them up, but I cannot.”
Stonyhurst headteacher Andrew Johnson said the college accepted the court’s judgement.
He said: “Stonyhurst College pleaded guilty to this single offence at the outset of these proceedings.
“It has indicated its remorse in open court for the position Mr McGough finds himself in.”
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