Author Archives: rjlees

School cleaner died of mesothelioma

School Cleaner died of mesothelioma Mrs Hamilton was a cleaner in a school in Durham. She sadly died of mesothelioma in June 2011. The school buildings were CLASP and, according to her solicitor, “large amounts of brown asbestos was damaged” . ‘A COUNCIL says it is managing and monitoring asbestos in its schools, after it agreed to pay compensation for the death of a cleaner following exposure to the deadly fibres….Mrs Hamilton worked as a cleaner at Belmont Comprehensive School, Durham, in the mid-1980s, when industrial illness lawyer Philip Thompson, who represents her husband, says not only was there asbestos present, but large amounts of brown asbestos was damaged and therefore likely to give off deadly loose fibres.’

Adjournment debate on schools asbestos policy review

Adjournment debate on Schools Asbestos Policy Review
The Commons Adjournment Debate on the school asbestos policy review took place on 17 March. The Hansard record is at: 17 Mar 2015 : Column 732 Asbestos in Schools

Comment: The debate was excellent and there were cross party well informed contributions from MPs. The Hansard report lengthy but worth reading. The matter is out in the open, and the Government have publicly acknowledged there is a problem. Consequently whichever party forms the next Government will have to continue to build on the policies that have now been put in place.

We are saddened to hear of the deaths from mesothelioma of Laura Armitage and Jean Weston.

We are saddened to hear of the deaths from mesothelioma of Laura Armitage and Jean Weston. Laura had worked in the school kitchens in a school in Barnsley and Jean had been a teacher…. “Post mortems carried out on Jean Weston, 86, and 84-year-old Laura Armitage revealed both were suffering from fatal mesothelioma, both had only worked in Barnsley schools.Mrs Weston had been a teacher at Darfield Foulstone school for almost 40 years, only leaving when she retired in the late 1980s. Mrs Armitage worked in the kitchens at the old Whinmoor School in Barugh Green from 1975 to 1988…. Inquests concluded both had died due to industrial disease.”

Government Review of asbestos in schools published – welcomed but an analysis of the flaws linked to a copy

At this link is a welcome for the review and an analysis of the flaws in the review that need rectifying. The analysis is linked to a copy of the review.

HSE visit .. only 39% of schools aware of DfE guidance on asbestos .. HSE no longer do safety inspections of schools

Legislation Watch:     Asbestos and schools: the lessons learnt (Legislation Watch 9 Feb 2015); “If children are exposed to asbestos, they have a greater risk of developing mesothelioma than if exposed in later life. In addition, there has been an increase in the number of teachers developing mesothelioma within the last 10 years… Of the 153 schools visited (by HSE), 20 (13%) were issued with an Improvement Notice… 24 other schools were given “written advice” on improving their controls…. 46% of schools did not have a comprehensive system in place to provide information to those who might disturb asbestos-containing materials… only 39% of schools in England were aware of the DfE’s guidance on managing asbestos in schools…. The competency of surveyors is critical in identifying where asbestos is and in what condition. Yet only 31% of schools could show to the HSE they had checked the competency of the surveyors they used… In relation to Asbestos Management Plans only half of the schools recorded all the details that were required, 33% had no such plans.”

Comment: This article underlines the failure of a significant number of schools  to safely manage their asbestos identified in the last round of HSE inspections. It also shows how essential it is to have a system of proactive inspections to identify those schools that are not managing their asbestos safely. However there is now no system in place as HSE are no longer is allowed to carry out these essential safety inspections.

Property Data Survey specifically excludes asbestos in schools .. results

Condition of the School Estate in England The results of the Property Data Survey Programme (PDSP) were published on 6th February. There have been a series of Parliamentary Questions on the PDSP in England. Asbestos was specifically excluded from the PDSP


  • It is extraordinary that at the end of the two year audit DfE cannot say either how many schools or buildings are in a good, satisfactory, poor or bad condition or how much it will cost to bring the whole estate up to a good condition. The Parliamentary questions confirm that the data is unclear and confusing so that it is almost impossible to have a true picture of what condition the school estate is in.
  • In comparison the condition of the School Estate in Scotland is presented in a clear, understandable manner.
  • Asbestos was specifically excluded from the PDSP. As it can be one of the most expensive items in maintaining, refurbishing or demolishing a school, it means that any financial forecasts will be meaningless.
  • One must question whether it is intentional to mask the scale of the problem

Audit never undertaken of extent, type and condition of asbestos in UK schools

An audit has never been undertaken to determine the extent, type and condition of asbestos in UK schools. In England the Government took the decision to specifically excluded asbestos from their two year audit of the condition of school buildings which was completed in February 2015. However in 2008 the Department for Education estimated that around 70% of schools contain asbestos, and they based their estimate on the age of the building and the floor area. Since then DfE have stated that more than 75% contain asbestos. That gives a misleading impression as a list has been collated by Freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted by individuals and the media to Local Authorities from 2009 to 2014 . The actual percentage is significantly greater at 86%.