Kingswood School, a private boarding school in Bath, has been fined £50,000 after exposing employees and pupils to levels of radon gas that exceed the radon action level. Five pupils, two employees and their children were exposed to levels of radioactive radon gas between eight and fourteen times the legal limit. The exposures at Kingswood School occurred in 2019. Those affected were exposed to the elevated radon gas levels as a result of working and living at the school.
Radon gas is a hazard in many homes and workplaces. It is a colourless, odourless, radioactive gas that occurs in rocks and soils, some building materials. Sources of radon within the ground can find pathways and accumulate in buildings. It is estimated that the annual mortality from radon exposure in buildings represents 9% of all deaths from lung cancer, and 2% of all cancer deaths, in Europe. In the UK, this equates to approximately 2000 premature deaths every year.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that the school was aware of elevated radon levels as early as 2007 when they carried out monitoring and remediation measures were installed to reduce levels. However, no subsequent radon monitoring was conducted, and control measures were not verified. Only following HSE intervention in 2018 did the school find out about their previous radon problem, after which further radon monitoring and remediation was carried out.
Kingswood School Trustees Limited pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. The company was fined £50,000 and was ordered to pay £19,222 costs at a hearing on 19 July 2023.
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.”
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New GGS recruit, Matthew Thompson, discusses his fascinating research into the eriophorum genus and its significance to ground gas activity.