A mid-Essex school has been ordered to pay £46,000 after a poorly-planned refurbishment exposed staff to asbestos.

Managers at The Boswells School, in Chelmsford, converted an old boiler room into a cleaning store.

During the work asbestos residue on the walls was disturbed and caretakers swept contaminated debris from floors.

Their exposure to risk only came to light after a later asbestos survey was completed in the area, Chelmsford Crown Court heard on Friday.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found materials containing asbestos were also present in other areas, and school caretaking staff and contractors had disturbed the fabric of school buildings over many years without being alerted to their presence.

Anyone who entered potentially contaminated areas were placed at risk of developing serious ill health conditions. The school, in Burnham Road, also failed to ensure that spread of asbestos was prevented or reduced.

Boswells Academy Trust pleaded guilty to breaching two health and safety regulations.

Judge David Turner QC fined the trust £26,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £20,000.

Glyn Davies, HSE inspector, said after the hearing: “The Boswells Academy Trust should have controlled this potentially lethal risk by identifying the type, location and condition of any asbestos containing materials within the fabric of the school, and by implementing suitable precautions to prevent its disturbance.

“It should then have ensured such information was shared with anyone liable to disturb this fabric.

“This prosecution should act as a reminder, not just to schools, but to all persons in control of the repair and maintenance of non-domestic premises, of the need to ensure correct measures are put in place.”