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Asbestos in Schools

Comment on Grand Committee debate

Health and Safety at Work 4 April 2011

It is of great concern that the Government has announced that HSE will no longer carry out proactive inspections of local authority schools. Ten years ago HSE rarely inspected schools to determine whether or not they were managing their asbestos effectively and safely. Consequently those schools who were not properly managing their asbestos passed undetected.

The common practice was that inspections were only carried out following an asbestos incident, by which time the damage had been done. It is only in recent years that the HSE has undertaken proactive inspections in schools and by doing so have uncovered bad practice and the failure of a significant number of schools and local authorities to manage their asbestos. Without doubt the policy has  prevented staff and pupils being exposed to asbestos.

The remedial actions that are necessary following just a single asbestos incident in a school can cost hundreds of thousands, and even millions of pounds, and yet the Government have decided that they will make these short term savings on proactive inspections to save a few thousand pounds. It is a flawed policy and will not only endanger the occupants of schools, in the long run it could potentially cost them a fortune.

Michael Lees

22nd April 2011

Full debate (Asbestos in Schools is specifically mentioned in the the penultimate paragraph.)

Press report on debate and Government response