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Asbestos in Schools

Joint Union Asbestos Committee

Press Release

A national asbestos trade union campaign group has called for the government to continue its commitment to the funding of online asbestos awareness training for all staff following the recent prosecution of a leading university for failing to manage the asbestos on their campus properly.

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) said today that the recent judgment against University of Lincoln indicated how easily things can go wrong with asbestos in educational institutions, and underlines how important it is for Department for Education (DfE) and Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to continue working together on elearning and online training of education professionals in being able to identify and successfully manage asbestos.

The university was fined over £10000 with over £12000 in legal costs after a lecturer became trapped in a room after a door lock broke in February 2010. After she was freed, asbestos debris was noticed around the door handle. The university had failed to act on earlier reports of asbestos in 2006 and 2007 and although a plan was in place to manage the hazard, the university failed to implement the plan.

Julie Winn, Chair of JUAC, today said the case comes as DfE confirms that HSE will no longer carry out pro-active inspections in the education sector to assess whether institutions are safely managing their asbestos.

“In the gap that this policy creates, it is ever more important for the elearning awareness training initiative to continue. With that programme, duty holders, and all the school workforce will get online access to the necessary training to raise awareness of the asbestos in their buildings and how to manage the asbestos to minimise the risks to the health of both staff and pupils.” said Winn.

Earlier this month a coroner’s inquest found that the late Brenda Waddell of Grimsby had died of mesothelioma contracted from exposure to asbestos during her time working as a cleaner at Grimsby College.