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Asbestos in Schools
 
Update 108
6 May 2009

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1. Action in Parliament

The Prime Minister agreed at PMQ’s to meet a delegation to discuss the problem of asbestos in schools. The meeting is on 13 May

2. Formal Complaint

A formal complaint has been submitted to  the Minister with responsibility for the HSE concerning his Department’s conduct and policy towards asbestos in system built schools.  The complaint is about the flawed guidance issued in March 2007 that at times gave dangerous advice that would potentially contaminate schools and expose the occupants. A similar complaint has also been submitted to the Schools Minister.

The Minister has also been requested to release all the details of the second series of air tests commissioned by HSL. The tests were carried out to determine the asbestos fibre levels in system built schools and were a quantum level lower than previous and subsequent tests.   In December 2007 HSE were asked whether any of the tests were carried in buildings owned by the shareholders of a commercial company with an actual, or perceived, vested interest in their outcome. HSE refused disclosure stating that it would not be in the public’s interest. An Information Commissioner’s investigation was set up to look into the HSE’s refusal. At the end of March HSE finally released the information which confirms that the buildings were owned by one of the six shareholders.  Because this raises serious questions about the independence and impartiality of the tests the Minister has been asked to release the information for public scrutiny and peer review.

The whole issue of asbestos fibre release in system built schools has been badly handled by the Government and the HSE. The Minister has been asked to convene an expert panel to examine the tests, the conclusions, decisions and subsequent guidance.

3. Warning press and MPs over potentially Misleading Statements about Asbestos Incidents and Policy

Authorities sometimes rely on standard official statements to deal with asbestos incidents and queries. Such statements may be misleading or not relevant in a particular situation. If either of these standard responses are made to you then it is worth ensuring the authority have analysed their systems and statements rather than blindly following an agreed script. Go to this link for a summary of the flaws in each statement - with quotable evidence from the Ministers and the HSE.

Potentially Misleading Statement One
“If asbestos is in good condition and not likely to be disturbed then it is usually safer to manage it than it is to remove it.”

The problem is that it is frequently not known whether or not the hidden asbestos is in good condition, and therefore one cannot say it is safer to manage it. Also the Government privately acknowledge that if asbestos is removed correctly then it is safer for the occupants.

Potentially Misleading Statement Two
 “Major refurbishments undertaken under BSF would normally include the removal of all asbestos, and any deteriorating material would normally be identified by a type 2 survey and removed.”

This and similar statements make it appear that all asbestos will be removed from all schools when they are refurbished under BSF. Regrettably that is not true and runs contrary to Government and local authority policy. The end result is that in most schools much of the asbestos will be left in situ for future generations.

4. Teaching Union Resolutions.

At their annual conferences both ATL and NASUWT unanimously voted to remove all asbestos from schools.

5. Conferences for MPs and for the public

Parliamentary asbestos seminar “Asbestos Update” 13 May. Michael Clapham MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety, will chair the seminar. The agenda is at this link. The General Secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers and Carol Hagedorn, a teacher suffering from mesothelioma will give a joint presentation on asbestos in schools. The meeting is for MPs and invited guests.


Medway Maritime Conference "Mesothelioma the wider perspective" 12 May there will be presentations from scientific, medical and legal leaders in the field. There will be a lecture on asbestos in schools. Click here for the agenda, speakers, precis of discussions and how to book a place.

6. The latest incidents and media articles on asbestos exposure in schools

There was comprehensive media coverage of the NASUWT resolution.

Latest incidents of asbestos in schools and latest media coverage of the issue at this link.

7. Hear a BBC investigation into asbestos in schools  

A balanced, informative investigation by BBC Scotland investigating management flaws at all levels.      

8. Notes on the Problem of Asbestos in Schools and Government Policies

Short notes summarising the problem of asbestos in school and government policies are at this link for those who have not read the extensive papers on the issue.

See this link for more detail and more incidents

 

Richard Lees

This email is written by Richard Lees. It is based on research by Michael Lees, my brother. He is more expert on asbestos in schools than I am so this email and statements made by me should not be quoted as being from Michael Lees, or necessarily approved by him.

Michael Lees authoritative research can be seen at 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. Prime Minister to meet delegation
2. Formal complaint about HSE research paper failure to declare commercial interests and dangerous advice
3. Warning press and MPs over misleading statements from authorities
4. Teaching Union unanimous resolutions
5. Conferences for MPs and for public
Asbestos Incidents and introductory Briefings
6. Latest asbestos incidents
7. Hear a BBC Investigation into asbestos in schools
8. Summary of the problem of asbestos in schools and Government policy


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