Asbestos resources from JUAC (See also News below)
- Asbestos management checklist for schools (pdf)
- Workplan 2013/14: Asbestos management in schools outside Local Authority control SIM 07/2012/08
- Questionnaire Work year 2013/14: Asbestos management in schools outside Local Authority control (pdf)
Asbestos in Schools – the Key Issues (May 2013) (Presentation: pdf)
JUAC/AiS Election briefing (July 2014)
MBE for Michael Lees (June 2014)
JUAC Government advisory committee on cancer conclude children are more at risk from exposure to asbestos (7 June 2013)
Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) letter to David Laws MP, Minister of State for Schools in the Department for Education (DFE) and Minister of State in the Cabinet Office (cc: Leighton Andrews AM, Minister for Education and Skills, Wales et al) (8 May 2013)
TES article by Michael Lees, 1 April 2011
ePolitix article by Michael Lees, 25 March 2011
The publication of a report from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report on ‘system built’ schools (21 September 2010) highlights the need for better asbestos management, according to The Asbestos in Schools group (AiS).
Although the HSE press release asserts that the majority of local authorities are complying with official guidance, it also shows that a significant number are not managing their asbestos effectively, with a quarter of the 42 inspected requiring enforcement action to be taken through the issuing of 18 improvement notices and one prohibition notice.
In February, a report published by the asbestos consultants’ association ATaC of their inspections of a sample number of schools found serious flaws in asbestos management. Their report reflected what their members find in many schools up and down the country, as the chairman of ATaC stated:
AiS spokesman Michael Lees said:
"The HSE inspections identified that a lack of asbestos training was a common weakness in a number of the local authorities and schools they inspected. This is one of the areas that AiS had previously identified as being a widespread problem in schools, and one that has to be urgently addressed if they are to stand any chance of effectively managing their asbestos."
"The questionnaire and inspections have concentrated on one particular asbestos problem in one type of school building. It did not attempt to assess standards in traditionally built schools, it gained no information on independent schools, and 95% of dioceses, who are in the main the owners of the Voluntary Aided Schools, simply failed to reply.
"There is a serious problem of asbestos fibre release in system built schools. The problem was first discovered in 1987 in Wandsworth when dangerous levels of asbestos fibres were ejected into the rooms when a door was slammed or a wall hit. A warning was not issued and nothing was done to prevent the fibres being released in the other 13,000 system built schools in the country. In 2006, similar problems were found in a system built school in Wales and warnings and guidance were finally issued. It is unacceptable that, 23 years after the problems were first discovered, a significant number of schools and local authorities have failed to take the necessary measures to protect their staff and children from the dangers of asbestos in these schools.*
"This new HSE report highlights that many schools and local authorities are still not safely managing their asbestos and underlines the urgent need for all the schools and authorities in the country that are not adequately protecting their occupants from the dangers of asbestos, to be identified and then brought up to a safe standard.
"The previous Government recognised that measures have to be taken to improve the asbestos management in schools by establishing an expert Steering Group under the Department for Education to recommend practical measures that will achieve this. The Coalition Government has not yet confirmed that the Steering Group will continue. This report shows that it is essential that it does."
The Asbestos in Schools Group (AiS)is a group of organisations and individuals concerned about the dangers of asbestos in schools. The group is non-party political and is under the auspices of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Safety and Health.
Its expertise covers all aspects of asbestos in schools, and its support is widespread and increasing. Amongst the group’s members and supporters are MPs, all six of the teaching trade unions, the three school support staff unions, the asbestos consultants’ association, experts on risk, solicitors, doctors, the asbestos victims support forum, the health and safety campaigning organisation Hazards, the Independent Schools Bursars Association and individuals including those who have been effected by the devastating result of asbestos exposure in schools. The group’s overall aim is to make schools safe from the dangers of asbestos.
Asbestos survey results - Survey of Voice members in England
Asbestos is present in around 75% of schools in Britain. Thousands of schools were built between the 1940s and 1980s when asbestos was routinely used in ceilings, wall linings and pipe lagging.
In the last 25 years, at least 178 teachers have died from mesothelioma, which is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer and linked to asbestos exposure. There are no statistics for pupil fatalities because of the long latency period of the disease.
The Control of Asbestos Regulation 2006 places duties on those responsible for the maintenance and repair of schools to take reasonable steps to identify the location and condition of Asbestos Containing Materials. The duty holder must then use this information to make a written record and management plan to ensure that the risks of exposure to asbestos are properly managed.
The deep concern of all the school staff unions is that there is a continuing risk to staff and pupils in schools where little is known about where asbestos is and what condition it is in. In these circumstances it follows that asbestos cannot be safely managed.
The unions are calling for an informed risk assessment of asbestos in schools and proportionate control measures. At school level, head teachers, staff and governing bodies must be adequately informed and adequately trained.
- early years and child care (e.g. nursery nurse, teaching assistant, school secretary, midday supervisor)
- wider workforce (e.g. caretaker, bursar, cook, technician)
There are a significant number of schools where staff are not aware of the dangers of asbestos, they do not know where it is and are not involved in its management. How can they be expected not to damage it and to ensure that pupils do not damage it?
This survey provides substantial evidence that urgent action is required to improve standards of asbestos management, particularly training for staff and authorities. The results of this survey add weight to the Voice election manifesto, which calls for:
The creation of an action plan for asbestos in schools, including: an audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in educational institutions and the standard of management; an assessment of the risk to those who work and learn in educational institutions; the provision of relevant training and guidance and the raising of awareness of the dangers of asbestos in these institutions so they can manage asbestos risks appropriately; and for all the asbestos to be identified and removed in a phased programme when schools are refurbished under BSF and PCP.
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