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Asbestos in Schools
 
Press Release 114
15 July 2010

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Press release. 15th July 2010

Schools fail to protect staff and children from the dangers of asbestos

Enforcement action has been taken by the HSE because of failures to ensure that schools are safe from the dangers of asbestos.

It has just been released that three local authorities were served Improvement Notices for breaches in the Control of Asbestos Regulations and the Health and Safety at Work Act. Earlier a fourth local authority was issued with an Improvement notice for similar offences.

HSE Quote from one notice:

You have failed to manage the risks from asbestos… in particular the primary schools… You do not have adequate measures in place for monitoring the condition of any asbestos…

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2. Details of the Councils and the Breaches

South Gloucestershire Council have failed to follow crucial asbestos guidance in their schools to prevent the release of dangerous asbestos fibres into the classrooms. The guidance was issued by HSE, the Department for Education and the Local Government Employers some four years ago in 2006 specifying emergency remedial actions to be taken. It had been found that dangerous levels of asbestos fibres were being released into classrooms when children slammed the doors and windows or hit the walls or structural columns in the classrooms. An HSE inspection determined that the council had failed to follow the guidance for sealing the cracks in the skirting boards, column casings and walls. The children and staff would potentially have continued to be at risk throughout this period.

HSE notices - 3 breaches

Thurrock Council were served with an Improvement Notice for failing to train their Headteachers in asbestos awareness. The Notice states “such training is paramount to their local management and understanding of asbestos.” The failures led to two breaches in the Control of Asbestos Regulations, two breaches in the Health and Safety at Work Act and a further breach in the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations. Frequently it is the Headteacher who is legally responsible for ensuring that the occupants of his school are safe from the dangers of asbestos and therefore they have to be aware of the dangers of asbestos and the necessary measures that have to be taken to ensure that asbestos is not damaged and staff and pupils exposed to asbestos. A failure to train the headteachers invariably will have resulted in some schools failing to safely manage their asbestos HSE enforcement notices Thurrock

HSE notices - 5 breaches


Bedford Borough council were served with an Improvement Notice for the failure of Beauchamp Middle school to review their asbestos management plan to ensure that their asbestos was properly maintained. The failure led to two breaches under the Health and Safety at Work Act and a further breach of the Control of Asbestos Regulations. By law schools have to manage their asbestos, and part of that is reviewing their plan and also periodically inspecting the condition of all asbestos materials to ensure that they have not been damaged. Failure to undertake such a review can lead to damage occurring and yet passing undetected so that staff and pupils can potentially be exposed to asbestos over a prolonged period of time.

HSE notices - 3 breaches

Glasgow City Council were served with an Improvement Notice for failing to manage the risks from asbestos in particular in their primary schools. The Notice states “You have failed to manage the risks from asbestos… in particular the primary schools… You do not have adequate measures in place for monitoring the condition of any asbestos… and that you have failed to ensure the measures specified in your plan have been properly implemented.” There were two breaches under the Health and Safety at Work Act and a further two breaches under the Control of Asbestos Regulations. This is a serious failure of a large city council to take the necessary measures to ensure that the occupants of their primary schools are safe from the dangers of asbestos. Again they have failed to monitor the condition of the asbestos and also have failed to follow their own plans to safely manage the asbestos in their primary schools.

HSE notices - 4 breaches

3. Further failures identified by Asbestos Consultants Association throughout UK

These serious breaches in the law once again show that some local authorities and schools are not taking the necessary measures to manage their asbestos to prevent it being damaged and exposing the staff and children to dangerous asbestos fibres. In February the asbestos consultants association, ATAC, published a report into the inspection of the standards of asbestos management in a sample of schools. Although it was a limited number of schools it reflected what their members find in schools up and down the country. The inspections found serious failures in asbestos management, with a lack of asbestos awareness  and training of Headteachers , dutyholders and members of staff. There was uncertainty over responsibilities, and who was in charge of asbestos management. The asbestos surveys were often superficial and at times had failed to identify the slightly less accessible, but more dangerous asbestos. Some asbestos management plans were unworkable and others almost non-existent. This failure to implement the most basic standards of asbestos management had led to potential damage to the asbestos and in some cases actual damage, with asbestos materials in one school being damaged by workmen during the course of the inspection.

The Chairman of ATAC, John O’Sullivan, said: “These are not minor problems that have crept in over recent years; rather they are fundamental problems that are endemic in schools in the UK.” See the report

4. Government Action

The Asbestos in Schools group saw the Prime Minister - Gordon Brown - last year who acknowledged that there is a serious problem of asbestos in schools and one that my Government has to address.”

Meetings with his Ministers followed. Finally the Schools Minister Diana Johnson MP established a Steering Group to improve the asbestos management in schools with the first meeting taking place two weeks before the general election. Two months after the general election the Coalition Government have still not confirmed whether the Steering Group will continue.  It is vital that it does, and for the safety of our children the Coalition Government has to take urgent and fundamental measures that prevent these appalling failures to protect children in schools from the dangers of asbestos.


Michael Lees
15th July 2010

Notes for Editors:
The Asbestos in School (AiS) group is under the auspices of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Safety and Health, who’s newly appointed chairman is Jim Sheridan MP. The chairwoman of the AiS group is Annette Brooke MP and its members and supporters include all six teacher trade unions the three support staff trade unions, the asbestos consultants association, solicitors, members of the medical profession, the Hazards campaign, the Asbestos victims support forum, the independent bursars association, teachers, support staff, parents and individuals directly affected by the legacy of asbestos.

Further details of asbestos in schools see:
web: www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk
         www.schoolasbestosaction.co.uk

Michael Lees,
Hardsworthy House,
Hardsworthy,
Bradworthy,
Holsworthy,
Devon EX22 7SD
michael@lees1262.fsworld.co.uk
tel:     01409 241496
mob:  0791 0947362

Annette Brooke MP
Mid Dorset and North Poole
Constituency 01202 693 555
Westminster 0207 219 8473
e-mail brookea@parliament.uk
Pippa Page pagepa@parliament.uk   0207 219 8473
Kevin Lewis. Intern.  Kevin.j.lewis@hotmail.co.uk  

Asbestos consultants association ATaC
Ian Stone ATaC Membership Manager
Ian.Stone@arca.org.uk
( 01283 531126 / 07894697850 6 01283 568228 : www.atac.org.uk
+ ARCA House, 237 Branston Rd, Burton, Staffordshire DE14 3BT

A report from the Asbestos Training and Consultancy Association (ATaC) highlights the failings of schools across the country to protect pupils and staff from asbestos. The Chairman of ATAC, John O’Sullivan, said: “These are not minor problems that have crept in over recent years; rather they are fundamental problems that are endemic in schools in the UK.” See the report

 

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Michael Lees authoritative research can be seen at http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/; that is approved by him, closely referenced with sources and can be quoted. You can also contact us as shown below

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CONTENTS
1. HSE Enforcement Action.
2. Details of the Breaches.
3. "Endemic failures throughout the UK" Chairman Asbestos Consultants Association
4. Government action and inaction

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