MPs brand asbestos in UK schools a ‘scandal’

Written by: HTU | Published:

A group of MPs has attacked the ongoing problem of asbestos in UK schools as a “national scandal" and urged the government to take action.

A group of MPs has attacked the ongoing problem of asbestos in UK schools as a “national scandal" and urged the government to take action.



A report on asbestos by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety warned the government that action needs to be taken with more than 75 per cent of British schools still containing the deadly substance. The report labels the situations as a “timebomb".



More than 140 teachers in the UK have died from asbestos-related diseases, including the cancer mesothelioma, in the past 10 years, the report says.



However, it adds that an unknown number of cleaners, administration staff and caretakers have also died.



The report, Asbestos in Schools: The Need For Action, calls upon the government to set up a programme for the phased removal of asbestos from all schools – with priority being given to the most dangerous or damaged.



It also said that mandatory asbestos training standards should be introduced, and that parents, teachers and support staff should be annually updated on the asbestos in their schools and the measures being taken to manage it safely.



Furthermore, the report recommends that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) should work alongside the Department for Education (DfE) to develop asbestos guidance specifically for schools.



The MPs also slammed previous governments for considering the issue as “too big to handle".



Labour MP and chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group, Jim Sheridan, said: “This is a national scandal. Urgent action is needed to prevent more pupils, teachers and other staff being exposed to this deadly killer dust. We need both far greater awareness of the risks that this material poses and a programme for its phased removal."



Michael Lees, founder of the Asbestos in Schools campaign group, whose wife, a teacher, died of mesothelioma, said: “It is essential and imperative that the government undertakes an urgent audit of asbestos in schools, provides training for schools on how to manage it safely and draws up a programme for its phased removal."



Asbestos was used extensively following the Second World War when 14,000 schools were built and almost all of those built before 1975 contain asbestos. Materials containing asbestos can release fibres if knocked or damaged which if inhaled can lead to mesothelioma.



A DfE spokesperson said: “The health and welfare of pupils and staff is absolutely paramount and should never be jeopardised.



“The HSE's expert advice is based on the best current evidence. They are clear that if asbestos is not disturbed or damaged, then it is safer to leave it in situ, with robust processes in place to contain and monitor it. We are working hard with the HSE to make sure asbestos is managed properly in schools and will not hesitate to take tough action where there is danger to the welfare of pupils and staff."



For more information and to read the report visit, www.jimsheridanmp.org.uk/asbestosinschoolsreport.pdf


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