Asbestos in schools is ticking timebomb

Last Updated on September 17, 2020 by

Teaching Union raises concerns about asbestos in schools

Asbestos in schools is a danger and a ticking timebomb according to a teaching union.

Although asbestos has been banned since 1999, a lot of schools and older buildings built between the 1950’s and 1980’s still contain the dangerous mineral.

As a consequence, the number of teachers dying from the asbestos related cancer, mesothelioma, is increasing every year.

According to the National Education Union, more than 200 teachers have died across the UK since 2001 from mesothelioma, caused by asbestos exposure.

Worryingly, children are more at risk from exposure to asbestos and are five times more likely to contract mesothelioma.

But despite the dangers, the HSE have said that asbestos in schools poses a very low risk if it’s managed properly.

Over half of schools in the North West of England are known to contain asbestos, with local authorities not sure if the other 44% of schools have asbestos or not.

The reason for this is that many schools such as academies and free schools are outside LEA control.

NEU representative, Peter Middleman, said, “If you start from a position that asbestos causes cancer in children, or children who are exposed to asbestos go on to get cancer in later life, then your starting position needs to be that it’s removed as a priority.”

“They’re paying £7bn to renovate the House of Commons, another £150m to renovate the Royal Palaces. It would take £13bn to get schools up to a satisfactory standard without removing asbestos.”

“It’ll cost more to do it properly, but we think it’s worth paying. The powers that be have an obligation to ensure this isn’t a ticking timebomb.”

asbestos in UK schools
Concerns have been raised over asbestos in many of our schools across the UK

Teachers not informed where asbestos is located in schools

Teachers in some schools containing asbestos have not been told where it’s located, despite being made aware of it’s existence, according to a survey in March 2017 by the teachers’ union.

Peter Middleman went onto say, “If we know where the incidents are likely to take place, we know where the asbestos is, then we can manage that.”

As part of the HSE’s regulations, it requires all employers to formerly notify them if and when a significant level of asbestos is released into the air that will cause a problem to a person’s health.

In the past five years alone they have received over 40 reports of such incidents from schools per year.

The large majority of these reports involved work carried out by contractors taking place at weekends or in school holidays in areas away from pupils and staff.

However, these regulations do not require the number of school staff and pupils who may have been exposed in such incidents to be included within the notification.

£5.6bn has been reportedly invested since 2015 by the UK government into the maintenance of school buildings.

A government spokesman said, “We expect all local authorities and academy trusts to have robust plans in place to safely manage asbestos in buildings, and provide detailed guidance for them on doing so.”

“We have also recently launched the new Asbestos Management Assurance Process [a scheme where schools have to provide written assurance that their schools are compliant with legislation on the management of asbestos] to make sure they are following these requirements.”

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Published Sep 10, 2018

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