Asbestos in UK schools remains a very real issue. Any building constructed before 1999 may have asbestos within it and that’s a considerable part of the national school estate.
It would be rare for a school not to have had an asbestos survey to identify where the material is. However, there would be few schools where every teacher and assistant had ever seen the survey. Or even knew it existed.
Schools are not known for the delicacy with which their young charges treat the infrastructure, and material disturbance always remains a possibility. If the teachers don’t know where the asbestos is then chances of accidental fibre release has to be a real concern.
The NEU has advice for school managers and governors which states that employees should be regularly consulted. But how many actually are?
Kent County Council (KCC) has been fined £200,000 after asbestos was disturbed at Lansdowne Primary School in Sittingbourne.
Canterbury Crown Court was told how, on 6 November 2014, an environmental health officer was carrying out a routine food inspection when they noticed what looked like asbestos rope hanging from the ceiling.
A prohibition notice was served on the now independent educational trust. An investigation found that the asbestos flue and rope were disturbed when it was under the control of the County Council 18 months beforehand.
The HSE found that the flue and gasket rope were attached to a steriliser unit that was removed by the caretaker. The investigation also revealed that neither the caretaker nor the head teacher had any asbestos management or awareness training. The council failed to effectively prevent exposure and failed to provide suitable training to those liable to be exposed to asbestos.
Kent County Council pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 10 (1) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and was fined £200,000 with costs of £21,500.
Shout Out Safety Training Courses
Shout Out Safety provides Health & Safety training courses as streamed broadcast-quality HD video which increases engagement and knowledge retention.
The Shout Out Safety Asbestos Awareness course is very popular with school caretakers and site managers through our association with The Caretakers website. We’re honoured to have been the official training provider to this fantastic online resource for serval years now.
The presence of asbestos in UK schools can only be addressed by a long-term programme of removal. But here’s the rub, there’s over 23,000 of them and it would mean complete closure for months for each one…
In the meantime we should be looking to protect and inform ALL staff who work in buildings where the threat exists.