Asbestos in schools – some latest news

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We have been following the problem of asbestos in schools and the fact that schools aren't doing enough to protect their staff and pupils from deadly asbestos which is the cause of the fatal disease mesothelioma.

We highlighted the results of a recent report by the Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association (ATaC) which stated that none of the schools it visited were meeting health and safety rules on managing asbestos in schools. (See article: Asbestos in schools putting thousands of lives at risk – 8 February 2010)

Teaching unions are calling for a full audit of the danger posed by asbestos in schools – about 75% of schools are thought to contain asbestos and 178 teachers are known to have died from asbestos-related illnesses.

The chairman of ATaC, John O'Sullivan, said: "Numerous incidents have taken place where asbestos fibres have been released, the schools contaminated and teachers, support staff and pupils have been exposed."

"The increasing numbers of mesothelioma deaths amongst teachers and support staff is testament that the policy of management has failed."

Current government policy is for the schools to leave asbestos in place, as this is thought to be safer than disturbing the asbestos if it were to be removed. In fact, experts do say that when asbestos is damaged or disturbed it is at its most dangerous.

However the message does seem to be getting through that teachers and parents are simply not happy about the asbestos in schools situation. The main teaching unions are calling for a widespread audit of the danger of asbestos in schools and currently 34 local authorities are being investigated over their management of asbestos in schools.

The Voice union for educational professionals has found that many schools are unaware of the dangers of asbestos. But Schools Minister Iain Wright has said that the government will be producing a guide on how to manage asbestos in schools for head teachers, governors and local authorities. Where required, training will be offered.

He said: "By law, tough, robust processes must be in place in schools to carefully monitor asbestos. All local authorities and school employers must fully comply – no ifs or buts."

"We and the Health and Safety Executive have surveyed every single local; authority over the last year to assess their asbestos management and ensure that they are fulfilling their legal duties – the first ever such audit."

Here at Simpson Millar we will keep a close eye on any more developments in the asbestos in schools story. If you have been affected by an asbestos-related disease including mesothelioma which was caused in your workplace, you may be able to claim compensation.

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