“The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health believes that the time has come to put in place regulations requiring the safe, phased and planned removal of all the asbestos that still remains in place across Britain. …..
the dutyholder must develop and implement a plan for the removal of all asbestos which ensures that removal is completed as soon as is reasonably practical but certainly no later than 2035. In the case of public buildings and educational establishments, such as schools, this should be done by 2028.”
European Committees 24 June: Asbestos related deaths predicted to double those of road deaths. .. the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) and the Committee of the Regions (CoR) heard .. testimony from some of Europe’s top experts on asbestos… placing the total number of estimated deaths in Europe at 47,000 per year, 50% higher than previously thought and double those related to road accidents. Children and teachers in schools, DIY enthusiasts and maintenance workers are …. increasingly at risk from asbestos infested buildings across Europe…. Asbestos was used extensively in buildings erected between 1961 and 1990, with millions of tonnes still present in buildings, not only putting building and maintenance workers at risk but potentially anybody present or occupying the property…. Over 80% of schools in one country alone, the United Kingdom, still contain asbestos… “Member States and the European Institutions need to take action now to head off this emerging public health crisis. National Action Plans need to be implemented and the European Commission should prioritize its response to this major risk to public health across all policy areas. We are talking about a lot more than traditionally exposed factory workers, now extending our concern to the children in our schools ………Mauro D’Attis, CoR rapporteur … strongly regretted the fact that asbestos removal is not high on the EU political agenda, emphasizing the lack of political will to deal with an issue that kills thousands of people annually. “We need a rigorous analysis of existing risks and an effective model for registering asbestos presence in buildings”
‘I lost my dad to this terrible disease. Now my children may have been exposed.’ Victim’s fury at asbestos alert… “My father died a terrible death,” … “He had been a big, strong man but he just wasted away in front of our eyes.
“At the very end he was praying for the pain to end…. . I’ll never forget it… So Seamus Davis was ‘absolutely stunned’ when he learned this week that asbestos was uncovered at St Joseph’s Primary School in Antrim during routine works….. his own two children had been pupils there… “If I had known that there was asbestos in that school my kids would not have been there. I’ve seen first-hand what it can do and I would never dream of putting a child at that risk.“All it takes is someone to put a nail into the wall and the fibres can be released. If they are breathed in they can lie dormant for years before they change that person’s life forever. To think that thousands of children have passed through there oblivious to the danger is truly frightening. It’s terrifying.
Independent: NUT General Secretary, Christine Blower said the number of teachers dying of the disease is on the rise – with 22 recorded in 2012. …. She said: “Successive governments have failed to address the legacy of asbestos in schools, leading to unnecessary deaths of staff and former pupils. Children are more at risk than adults from exposure to asbestos fibres, due to the long latency period for mesothelioma. It is estimated that around 200 – 300 adults are dying every year as a consequence of exposure to asbestos when they were at school.”The review of asbestos in schools policy by the previous Government was a step in the right direction, but more needs to be done. There is still no recognition that asbestos is a serious problem for schools. Shamefully, the Government’s most recent survey of school buildings deliberately excluded asbestos.”
In March 2015 the NUT undertook a short on-line survey of a small sample of members. The responses were helpful in that they confirmed our fears about standards of asbestos management in many schools. The findings also show that while there is a long way to go in terms of getting messages across about the risks to children and the risks to staff, there was near total agreement that there should be a long term strategy on the part of the Government for the eradication of asbestos from schools.
44 per cent of respondents had not been told whether their school contains asbestos. This is quite shocking since most schools (approximately 86 per cent) do contain asbestos. If teachers haven’t been told, that means that not even basic awareness training will have been given.
Of the 46 per cent of respondents who knew that their school contains asbestos, 40 per cent had not been told where it is located, which means that they, and the children they teach, may be in danger of disturbing it
More than 80 per cent of respondents said that parents had not been given information about the presence of asbestos and how it is managed. In the USA annual reports are mandatory.
Very few of the respondents who said that their school does contain asbestos had seen a copy of their school’s asbestos management plan (only 15%)
Of the respondents who knew that their school does contain asbestos, just over a third reported that there had been an incident which may have led to exposure. A selection of comments from respondents on particular incidents is at this link
Over three quarters of respondents were unaware of the growing death toll among teachers linked to asbestos exposure.
An even greater number (nearly 95 per cent) were unaware that Britain has the highest mesothelioma rate in the world.
Only 20 per cent of respondents were aware that children are more at risk than adults from exposure to asbestos fibres, due to the long latency period for mesothelioma.
Only 13 per cent of respondents were aware that schools are not routinely inspected to check how asbestos is being managed….
Asbestos: A double standard Retired teacher Penny Devaney gave her life to education, literally
SecEd 30 April: “Fire deaths, cycle deaths and school related asbestos deathsschool-related asbestos deaths – while the government acts on the first two, it is scandalously slow to tackle the third, says Kevin Courtney… Perhaps it is the delayed effect – death can occur decades after first exposure. But those 200 to 300 former pupils who die each year are stolen from their families, often with dependent children, and are robbed of many years of productive life and a happy retirement.”
Daily Mirror 3th April: “Retired teacher Penny Devaney gave her life to education, literally. Sometime during her 30 years at primary schools in Lancashire she was exposed to asbestos, which was commonly used in public buildings after the Second World War, and now she has terminal lung cancer… Penny…won an undisclosed six-figure settlement from Lancashire County Council... Ian Toft, an expert asbestos lawyer at her solicitors Irwin Mitchell, said: “Penny, like many other teachers, was not warned of the dangers of asbestos, despite the risks of exposure being known for decades.”
NUT conference 7 April. Christine Blower, NUT general secretary, said: “The continuing presence of asbestos in our schools is a scandal. Nearly 90% of schools still contain asbestos and teachers are dying in increasing numbers. In 2012 alone there were 22 teacher deaths from mesothelioma. .. The Coalition Government has not acknowledged that there is a serious problem with asbestos in schools and as a consequence has, despite its recent Asbestos in Schools Review, failed to provide a long term strategy to address the problem. … We want to see nothing less than a complete national audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in our schools. In the short to medium term asbestos must be better managed. In the long term, however, any future government must make real steps towards the removal of asbestos in schools, so that this threat to pupils, teachers and other school staff can finally be eradicated.”
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.
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.
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
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%.