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January 17, 2018

‘Asbestos in our schools is a local and national scandal’

‘Asbestos in our schools is a local and national scandal’

Asbestoes warning sign

Asbestoes warning sign

  • At least 570 schools in central Lancashire contain asbestos

  • The National Union of Teachers has been running a major campaign to tackle the problem

  • Preston and Lancaster have the highest number of schools known to contain asbestos

At least 570 of the county’s 617 schools contain asbestos, the bulk of them in Preston, Chorley and South Ribble, according to data released following a Freedom of Information request.

The National Union of Teachers has been running a major campaign for more than a year to try to tackle the problem in the county and today national and county health and safety officer Ian Watkinson branded the figures “a scandal on a local and national scale”.

Asbestos sign
Asbestos sign

He said: “We have been campaigning about this on both national and local level.

“It is so important. Parents don’t know, nor do teachers, and most of it is much of it is not being managed properly.”

“Children, teachers and other school workers are being needlessly exposed to deadly asbestos fibres on a daily basis.”

Information held by the county council shows the highest number of schools known to contain asbestos are in Preston and Lancaster, which each have 66.

Children, teachers and other school workers are being needlessly exposed to deadly asbestos fibres on a daily basis.

Ian Watkinson

There are 50 in Chorley, 40 in South Ribble, 52 in West Lancs and 22 in the Ribble Valley.

The county abides by national policy which means leaving asbestos in situ unless it becomes a problem.

Between September 2010 and February 2011 the county council paid out £421,322 in compensation and £63,500 in legal costs.

Latest available figures, up to November 2013, show that five other claims are still outgoing.

Ian Watkinson
Ian Watkinson

The NUT said lives are being put at risk and Ian Watkinson said the teaching unions were working together and calling for urgent action by the government.

The county said it was unable to specify how many incidents there had been involving the repair or removal of asbestos in recent years but said:

However, when asbestos is disturbed or deteriorates it becomes extremely unsafe and inhaling the dust and fibres can lead to serious illness decades later.

County Coun Matthew Tomlinson, cabinet member for children, young people and schools, said: “As in all other councils around the country, most of Lancashire’s older schools contain some asbestos.

“Where it occurs, it is inspected regularly and does not represent any threat to staff, children or young people.

“As long as it is in good condition, well-sealed and not disturbed then it is far safer to leave it well alone.

“Our qualified asbestos surveyors inspect asbestos-containing materials at least once a year and sometimes more often depending on risk.

“We deal with any concerns immediately, although between inspections we do rely on schools telling us if they have noticed anything amiss, or if they have brought in their own workmen.

“If schools are undergoing building work or renovation, then an additional survey is carried out to identify the presence of any asbestos. If necessary, removal is carried out by a specialist firm.”

Following a national campaign by teaching unions the Government last week published the findings of its review of asbestos policy in schools,calling for better training and guidance.

It was described as “a step in the right direction, but no more.”




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‘Asbestos in our schools is a local and national scandal’

Asbestos danger fears at half of Bradford district's schools

Asbestos danger fears at half of Bradford district’s schools

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: The former Tong High School in Bradford where Graham Butterfield taught before dying after being exposed to asbestos fibres

The former Tong High School in Bradford where Graham Butterfield taught before dying after being exposed to asbestos fibres

Almost half of Bradford Council schools still contain potentially-deadly asbestos, new figures reveal.

And a teaching union fears that with more schools moving out of local authority control to become academies, efforts to prevent staff and pupils from possible harm could be diluted.

The Council has stressed that it keeps a close watch on the management of asbestos in its school buildings but the National Union of Teachers has warned that when schools become academies, there is a risk of losing track of that vital information.

The UK Asbestos Training Association has also stressed that it is essential that both school staff and any builders carrying out work on them make sure they know where asbestos is located.

The association claims that 75 per cent of schools in the country still contain asbestos, although in Bradford that figure is lower, with 96 out of 205 Council schools still containing the material.

Asbestos is commonly found in ceiling tiles, heating systems and wall coverings and can become dangerous when it is damaged as potentially deadly fibres are then exposed.

A spokesman for UKATA said: “More than 140 teachers have died from mesothelioma (a cancer caused by asbestos exposure) in the last ten years, plus an unknown number of cleaners, dinner ladies and in some cases workers who have unwittingly taken on the job of removal without adequate training.

“Teachers need to think twice before fixing work to walls in such a way that would disturb asbestos and builders need to ensure they have the training and skills necessary to remove and dispose of the material safely.”

Ian Murch, Bradford national executive member for the National Union of Teachers, said: “Teachers in Bradford have died of mesothelioma, and families have been compensated on the basis that the exposure happened in the schools they worked in.

“It is not just an issue for teachers, it is an issue for pupils, because they are far more vulnerable when they are young.

“As with anything these days, there is the issue of having the money to remove it, but it needs to be managed. It can just mean keeping good records of where it is and making sure you don’t disturb it.

“With the number of academies that are no longer under council control, it is going to be harder to keep track of where asbestos is.

“Teachers, staff and pupils need to know where asbestos is – it is absolutely vital a record is kept.”

Councillor Ralph Berry, the executive member for education on Bradford Council, said that many schools containing asbestos had been closed or replaced, and that others were being closely monitored.

He said: “It can be kept safe if it is properly dealt with if we keep a close watch on it. It is a responsibility we as a Council take very carefully.”

On the NUT’s fear that academy schools are out of Council control, he added: “That is a very good point. That is one of the problems when you fragment the system, it makes it harder to maintain levels of security. I can understand the point the union is making and I agree with it.”

In recent years two former teachers in Bradford have died due to their exposure to asbestos while teaching.

Graham Butterfield, who taught at the former Hutton Middle and Tong schools between 1967 and 1996, died aged 64 in early 2011, and an inquest into his death found that exposure to the fibres had led to him developing mesothelioma.

Following the inquest his widow, Marilyn, of Idle, Bradford, said: “I cannot believe that he was exposed to this dust in a teaching environment which should be a safe place for our children to learn.”

Graham Webber, of Heaton, Bradford, a former teacher at Daisy Hill Middle School, died aged 57 in 2010 and a subsequent inquest also ruled that his death was by industrial disease caused by asbestos.

l Tong School in Westgate Hill has since been demolished and rebuilt.

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Asbestos danger fears at half of Bradford district's schools

U.K. universities do not tell students about asbestos in dorm rooms

U.K. universities do not tell students about asbestos in dorm rooms

Published: Aug. 27, 2013 at 9:24 AM

LONDON, Aug. 27 (UPI) — Last year, at least 17,000 students in England slept in university bedrooms that contained asbestos, an investigation revealed.

The substance is harmless if left undisturbed, but it can be deadly if it is damaged.

Asbestos is the No. 1 cause of work-related deaths in England, The Guardian reported.

The universities do have asbestos management procedures, but many college representatives said they do not tell students that there is asbestos in their bedrooms.

Students may not report damaged asbestos because they do not know it is there, The Guardian reported.

Of the 88 universities, 38 confirmed that they are providing rooms for students that contain asbestos.

Warwick University said 2,313 of its bedrooms contain asbestos.

“The material containing asbestos in these rooms is fully sealed and completely safe, fully in line with all statutory requirements and good practice,” a spokesman from the college said.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said it is concerned about the findings.

“ATL has campaigned hard for a national audit to check for the presence and state of asbestos in all education establishments and for its safe removal. This discovery shows how necessary and urgent this is,” a spokesman said.

See the article here: 

U.K. universities do not tell students about asbestos in dorm rooms