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Asbestos Safety Concerns in Schools in England

Posted on August 22nd 2019

Asbestos – the wonder product

In the 1960’s and 1970’s asbestos was seen as a wonder product. This cheap, durable, fire-retardant material was used extensively in the construction industry. The praise for asbestos was, however, short-lived as it became apparent that those working with the substance were suffering with various health problems. There were serious asbestos safety concerns coming to light. It was found that asbestos caused irreversible breathing problems and the incurable cancer, mesothelioma.

Banned in 2000

Although the health risks were well known to the industry decades before, the use of asbestos was eventually completely banned in the UK in the year 2000. However, any building constructed before this time could contain asbestos.

It is this legacy of asbestos that is now causing concerns in schools.

Dangerous when disturbed

Asbestos is not dangerous when it is in a good state and is not disturbed. It is when the asbestos fibres can become airbourne and be inhaled or ingested that they pose a risk. Therefore, simply having asbestos in a building does not put you at risk of developing an asbestos-related condition.

Asbestos in schools

Nearly 700 schools in England have been referred to the national health and safety body following concerns that asbestos in schools is not being managed safely.

Around 90% of England’s school buildings contain asbestos. It is most often found as insulation around boilers and pipework or in wall or ceiling tiles.

Mesothelioma in teachers

Since 2001 around 300 teachers and education professionals have died due to mesothelioma. This is a rare cancer however this number is around five times higher than it is for populations not exposed to asbestos.

Asbestos not managed properly

The problem with asbestos in schools is not that it is there, it is that it is not being managed properly. A survey carried out in 2017 found that nearly half of those who were aware that asbestos was in their school did not know the location of it. Of those who did know where it was, asbestos was in accessible locations such as floors and ceilings.

Deterioration over time

It is now 19 years since asbestos was banned and so the asbestos in schools is aging. With this, it is likely to deteriorate. With around 60% of schools in England being more than 40 years old, there is a lot of old asbestos that needs to be safely removed.

Education and openness

The key to ensuring asbestos safety in schools is to educate everyone of the dangers of the substance and alert all those who use the premises as to its location. The only way to prevent mesothelioma is to prevent exposure to asbestos.

A spokesman from the Department of Education said: “The safety of pupils and staff is our highest priority which is why we have asked schools to provide information through the asbestos management assurance process. This data will help the department develop a greater understanding of the management of asbestos in schools. We plan to publish a report of the findings shortly.”

We hope that the asbestos management assurance process assists in protecting pupils and staff in our schools.

Get in touch with our specialist team

If you have been exposed to asbestos and have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related condition such as mesothelioma, pleural thickening or asbestosis, get in touch with our specialist asbestos disease solicitors. They can offer you free advice and will investigate whether you can pursue an asbestos disease claim on a no win, no fee basis.

Call and speak to a lawyer on 01244 312306