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Asbestos in Schools

Asbestos Management at non-LEA Schools

- Major Concerns -

HSE and LACORS belatedly recognise the asbestos management problem in non-LEA schools and make improvement a top priority in 2010.

(8 Jan 2010)


Major Concerns about Asbestos Management at Non Local Authority Schools

Paul Rowen, MP for Rochdale, has welcomed the news that a planning document prepared by Local Authorities Coordinators of Regulatory Services (LACORS) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has made asbestos management in non-Local Education Authority (LEA) Schools a priority for action in 2010.

This follows on from a joint Department for Schools, Children and Families (DCSF) and HSE questionnaire on asbestos management. This report highlighted the following areas where management needed to be strengthened:

  • Clarification of who is the duty holder, and who takes responsibility for management of asbestos
  • Evidence of a lack of knowledge/awareness of the range of system buildings within some authorities property portfolios
  • Evidence that some knowledge about property portfolios has been lost in the process of local government reorganisation
  • The importance of proactive management-instructions often issued, but not clear how formal monitoring of compliance and implementation takes place at school level
  • Asbestos registers-differing views with regard to what constitutes a register, who maintains it and who updates it.

The summary of responses that the HSE gave to Paul Rowen and other asbestos campaigners mentions 155 local authorities and makes no mention of the 95 replies expected from diocese and schools outside local authority control. On questioning, DCSF admitted that they had only received a handful of responses from this group. It also appeared that the questionnaire did not obtain information on the 10% of schools that are independent in England.

Liberal Democrat Work and Pensions Shadow Minister Paul Rowen, himself a former Deputy Headteacher at an RC secondary school said: “Six years ago tackling asbestos management in non LA schools was dropped by the HSE due to budget constraints.

The survey conducted by DSCF last year backed up concerns which I and other asbestos campaigners, including all the teachers and support staff unions, had about the state of asbestos management in many of our schools.

This is a belated recognition by LACORS and HSE that a step change in attitudes is needed. It is a start but a case of too little possibly too late.”

Notes:

  1. Paul Rowen MP chairs the Campaign Against Asbestos in Schools, a group with cross party support in the House of Commons, it is also endorsed by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety. The group is comprised of representatives of all the main teaching unions, industry experts and long term campaigners.
  2. Asbestos is present in around 75% of schools in Britain, often in ceiling tiles, wall boards or insulation. Official policy is that most asbestos is being safely managed.
  3. In the last 25 years, at least 178 teachers have died from mesothelioma – one of the most aggressive forms of cancer, which is which is linked to asbestos exposure. Thousands of schools were built between the 1940s and 1980s when asbestos was routinely used in ceilings, wall linings and pipe lagging.