1. Government fund will meet asbestos related claims
from former pupils.
We are pleased to announce that the Government is setting up a
central fund to meet asbestos related claims from former pupils and
non-employees. The Risk Protection Arrangement (RPA) is for
academies, free schools, university technical colleges and studio
schools. It provides cover for various risks including asbestos
risks cover for pupils and non-employees where commercial insurance
cover was not previously available.
AiS first raised the matter with the Government more than two
years ago in a Parliamentary question in March 2012. The Government
confirmed that in general insurance cover is not available for
pupils and non-employees in schools. Local authorities self insure
but academies and free schools do not necessarily have the funds to
do so. AiS therefore argued
for a scheme to be set up that would meet any future claims from
former pupils. The RPA will provide that cover. Further
details are at this link.
Please widely circulate the
2. HSE warning: “No gas masks should be worn or
handled by children or teachers.”
HSE have considerably strengthened their warning about gas masks
that have been worn and handled by staff and pupils in lessons about
the War. They have issued the following
advice to the Departments of Education in England, Scotland and
Wales: “No gas masks should be worn or handled by children or
teachers... unless it is clearly certified as safe to do so.”
A large number of WWII gas masks have been sold on E-Bay and
other sites. HSE and Trading Standards are taking measures to
prevent the future sale and postage of the masks that contain
asbestos as it is prohibited under the law.
HSE carried out tests on various types of vintage gas masks both
from WWII and later. They found that the majority contain asbestos,
although some did not. However one cannot tell by looking at them
which do and which do not.
See a warning
issued by JUAC and the AiS in October 2013
3. HSE warning: WW1 steel helmets should not be worn or
In the centenary year of WW1 schools could also use steel helmets
in lessons. The Imperial War Museum has found that the majority of
WW1 helmets contain chrysotile in the inner padding. HSE has issued
a warning that they should not be worn or handled unless clearly
certified as safe to do so.
4. Government review of asbestos policy for
At a meeting of the Department for Education Asbestos Steering
Group on 30th April the responses to the call for evidence were
considered as part of the policy review. There were a number of
common themes and recommendations, amongst which was that:
- The Committee on Carcinogenicity’s conclusion that children
are more vulnerable to exposure to asbestos should underlie all
future decisions and policy.
- Long term strategic policies should be adopted by the
Government. Present policies are short term. All political parties
should work together to solve the many problems associated with
asbestos in schools.
- A policy of progressive removal should be adopted. The most
dangerous materials identified and removed.
- Concern that academies and free schools do not necessarily
have the skills or resources to safely manage their asbestos.
- There was concern about the lack of asbestos awareness amongst
governors, headteachers, teachers and support staff and a
recommendation to introduce mandatory training.
- It is recommended that the Government collates information on
the extent, type and condition of asbestos in schools. A cost
benefit analysis can then be completed which should be open to
Parliamentary and public scrutiny.
- Workplace asbestos fibre levels should not be applied to the
occupants of schools. An environmental fibre level should be set
that is significantly lower than present levels.
- A policy of openness should be adopted so that staff and
parents are informed of the measures to make their schools safe
from the dangers of asbestos.
A full list of the AiS and Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC)
recommendations is at this link.
The AiS response to the policy review is at this link.
The JUAC response is at this
DfE will publish a report at the end of June which will take
stock of the evidence and key propositions that have been put
forward and outline a programme for delivery - including scope and
timings - for the full outcomes of the DfE policy review.
5. Unions’ surveys of members show a lack of asbestos
awareness in schools.
As part of the DfE policy review the National Association of
Headteachers and JUAC carried out surveys
of their members. Overall the results reveal a disappointing picture
of lack of knowledge and awareness in many areas. The majority of
the 1,300 responses from the JUAC survey were teaching assistants
which is indicative of high levels of concern among this group of
staff: 43% of the headteachers, 59% of the governing body and 90% of
the teaching assistants had not received asbestos training. This is
of concern as the headteachers and governors have responsibilities
for ensuring asbestos is safely managed in schools, and the teaching
assistants are the very people who are likely to disturb asbestos by
displaying the children’s work with staples or drawing pins in AIB,
hang mobiles and decorations from suspended ceilings or take books
out of stationary cupboards.
These surveys underline that
there is an urgent need for mandatory asbestos training for
headteachers, governors, teachers and support staff in schools.
6. School awaiting sentencing for failing to ensure
safety of pupils from asbestos
Collegiate is a grammar school in Belfast. The school
authorities pleaded guilty to failing to manage asbestos in
non-domestic premises by not having a suitable asbestos survey in
their primary school building and pleaded guilty to failing to
ensure that non-employees were not exposed to the risks of asbestos.
No plea was entered on the third count of failing to ensure the
health and safety of all employees, but a decision on how to plead
will be made this week, when sentencing will be passed.
Since 2004 there has been a duty on those who own or control
premises to identify if any asbestos materials are present. However,
it wasn't until May 2012 that the school carried out a survey in the
preparatory school which uncovered asbestos-containing materials.
Four days later the Northern Ireland Health and Safety Executive
found “High levels of asbestos fibres in the air. They also found
asbestos debris in the back of some cupboards. The survey
found that staff, contractors and children using the building were
at risk of exposure to the asbestos.”
The private primary school
was built in the late 1960s and was used up until the summer of
2011. However, it was also used as an after-schools facility, a
pre-school for children under primary age and a kindergarten. The
building was used regularly by girls from the main school along with
teachers, cleaners and administration staff.
Michael Lees: firstname.lastname@example.org
mob: 0791 0947362