Dept For Education Review On Asbestos In Schools Lacks Strategy To Deal With Massive Problem As Parliament Debates Issue On 17th March Says GMB
The next government should ensure phased removal of all asbestos from schools is planned within a realistic timescale and on a proportionate basis decided by the asbestos damage and the potential for exposure in each school says GMB.
GMB, the union for school support staff, welcome the adjournment debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday 17th March on the review published last week by Department for Education (DfE) of asbestos management in schools.
The debate will be led by Jim Sheridan MP on this important topic as over 75% of UK schools contain some asbestos and it is estimated that over 85% of English schools contain asbestos.
The DfE closed its consultation on the management of asbestos in schools in March 2014 and on 12th March, 8 months later than promised it published its’ review of the asbestos management in schools. This was followed up by a Ministerial statement from David Laws on Monday 16th March.
John McClean, GMB National Health &Safety Officer, said “GMB welcome the publication of the review, albeit this close to the election, and issued on the same day that the proposals for teachers pay were made public.
This issue is of major importance as all asbestos can cause cancer. Britain has the worst mesothelioma incidence in the World ( in 2012 it was 39.2 per million compared to USA rate of 14 per million). In 2013 the Committee on Carcinogenicity confirmed that children are more vulnerable to asbestos exposure than adults as they will have a greater time to develop asbestos related diseases. There is no known threshold of exposure to asbestos below which there is no risk.
However, while the review acknowledges the massive problem it lacks strategy to deal with the asbestos in schools over the long term.
It still maintains that schools are a low risk environment even though lively children often unknowingly damage the fabric of the building in a manner that does not happen in an exclusive adult workplace. This damage can lead to the release of deadly asbestos fibres, affecting both children and staff. This inadvertent exposure is not properly covered by the existing Control of Asbestos at Work regulations which are principally designed for those who work knowingly and directly on asbestos.
The next government should ensure that a proper, phased removal of all asbestos from schools is planned within a realistic timescale and on a proportionate basis decided by the asbestos damage and the potential for exposure in each school.”
Contact: John McClean GMB 07710 631 329 or Dan Shears 07918 767781 or GMB press office 07921 289880