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Damning investigation into college following teacher's death reveals Covid-19 health and safety laws were broken

A DAMNING investigation into a college in Lancashire after the death of a teacher has found that Covid-19 health and safety laws were broken, the University and College Union revealed today.

The incident at Burnley College is the first time an education sector employee has been issued a formal notice in relation to Covid-19 failings by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The HSE opened a fatality investigation into Donna Coleman’s death after UCU raised concerns with both the government body and the college.

Ms Coleman, who worked with vulnerable students at the college, died in January 2021 after contracting Covid-19.

Prior to the 42-year-old’s death, the UCU rejected Burnley College’s risk assessment in her working area because of inadequate controls on the virus.

The HSE found that the college was not taking all reasonably practicable measures to control Covid-19 at the time surrounding Ms Coleman’s death, including by failing to inform close contacts of those who tested positive and to meet social distancing requirements.

UCU general secretary Jo Grady said: “While the HSE was not able to find that Burnley’s failings directly caused Donna’s death, it is clear that the college endangered the lives of staff and students.

“The college should not need a year long investigation to address basic failings like refusing to allow staff to self–isolate when it was a legal requirement or to realise that it is incredibly reckless to push ahead with a Christmas party during a pandemic.

“We hope that the HSE investigation is a stark reminder to employers that they need to take workplace safety seriously and engage with unions when we raise health and safety concerns.

“The risk of not doing so is too great.”

Burnley College was approached for comment.

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