Around 90% of school buildings in England contain asbestos as figures reveal that nearly 700 schools have been reported for not safely managing the potentially-deadly fibres.
According to figures from the ONS, since 2001 at least 305 teaching and education professionals have died of mesothelioma, a cancer almost exclusively caused by asbestos. A 2018 study suggested that there were five times more deaths from mesothelioma among teachers and three times more among nurses than expected in populations not exposed to the substance.
The Health and Safety Executive advises that asbestos is only a risk if it is disturbed or damaged, but there are still hundreds of schools which have been referred for not safely managing the risk, according to a recent report in The Guardian
The newspaper reports that campaigners and unions say asbestos in schools is often poorly managed and that staff are frequently unaware of its location in the buildings they work in. Even low levels of exposure to asbestos fibres can cause cancer decades later. Research has shown that exposure to asbestos is more dangerous the younger a person is, raising concerns over the future health of children.
Last year, the government launched the asbestos management assurance process to find out more about asbestos in schools. According to information released following a freedom of information request, of the 2,952 schools bodies that responded in full to the survey, 2,570 (87%) reported having asbestos in at least one of their buildings.
The Department for Education (DfE) has now referred 676 state-funded schools and academies in England to the HSE as they did not provide evidence “that they were managing asbestos in line with regulatory requirements”. The HSE will now carry out inspections of some of those schools.
The report can be viewed here.
Eton Environmental Group specialises in the provision of asbestos management and surveying services in schools, so if you are concerned about your school, please get in touch for a no obligation quotation.