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Is More Action Needed to Remove Asbestos From Schools?

Posted on August 6, 2019

We are all now well aware of the dangers of asbestos and the link the material has to mesothelioma. However, this was not always the case. The use of asbestos in construction was only banned in 1999. And from 1950 to 1980, it was widely used building material. Unfortunately, this means throughout this time period, it was used in the construction of school buildings.

The scale of the problem is illustrated with statistics from the National Education Union. 319 teachers have died from mesothelioma. Including 205 since 2001 (Real numbers are likely to be higher as the figures don’t include those over 75). They also state that 86% of schools in Britain contain asbestos.

This shows how important it is for schools to manage any asbestos related dangers in the appropriate manner. And according to the Department of Health’s Committee on Carcinogenicity, a 5 year old child is 5 times more likely to develop mesothelioma following an exposure, compared to a 30 year old adult.

Calls For Increased Transparency

As a result of how serious exposure to asbestos can be, there have been calls for increased transparency regarding revealing to the public information on which schools contain asbestos. And what these schools are doing to manage the situation.

Lucie Stephens, is calling for asbestos to be removed from all school buildings. After her mother Sue Stephens, a teacher for 30 years, died in 2016, aged 68. “I’m delighted that the Department for Education has finally undertaken work to understand the extent of asbestos in our schools. It is long, long overdue.”

“There have been over 600 schools reported to the HSE for failure to manage their asbestos safely. This is cause for serious alarm. How many teachers and pupils will pay the price for this?

“My mum paid with her life due to a failure to safely manage and remove asbestos. It is long overdue but the DfE, with earmarked funds from the Treasury, must now commit to phased removal of asbestos from schools, starting with the most dangerous schools.

“And every school that contains asbestos must now be required to produce an annual report detailing the extent of asbestos, how it is managed and when it will be removed.”

Are Schools Doing Enough?

With the related dangers of asbestos, especially in children, it is vital that school are taking the necessary precautions. However, according to Fiona Riley, chair of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health’s (IOSH) Education Group, this is simply not happening. “It is deeply worrying that so many schools and academies have failed to provide sufficient evidence that they are properly managing asbestos.” Adding, “It is imperative that schools and academies know if asbestos is present in their buildings and, if it is, have a robust management plan in place to ensure staff and students are not exposed to it.”

Fiona also went on to say, “It is equally concerning that a huge number of schools and academies, about a quarter, have not responded to this request.” There is an obvious lack of knowledge of the level of danger asbestos in schools causes. But this danger is not just limited to schools. This illustrates how important campaigns such as IOSH’s No Time To Lose campaign is.

The No Time To Lose campaign aims to raise awareness of occupational cancer, and get businesses the help and knowledge they need to take action to prevent it. They also offer great free resources which allow you to raise awareness at your place of work, or simply with your friends and family, about the dangers of silica dust, asbestos, and diesel exhaust fumes.

Asbestos Awareness Training

Many construction companies regularly come into contact with asbestos. Particularly those who undertake demolition projects or reconstructions of older buildings. It is vital that those who work in these areas have a knowledge of asbestos. One of the best ways to achieve this is with Asbestos Awareness Training.

Courtley Heath & Safety run an accredited Asbestos Awareness Training course which is CITB grant eligible. On this course candidates will learn how to identify asbestos in its various forms, the history of asbestos, and the health effects of being exposed to asbestos.

If you would like more information on asbestos awareness training, either click the link above or contact us for further information.

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