This morning the issue of asbestos in schools was reported by the BBC after the presence of asbestos in schools had been previously described as a ‘national scandal’ by both MPs and peers. All political party groups are now calling for a scheme to be put into place in order to remove the potentially lethal material from schools once and for all after recent studies have suggested that it may still be present in one form or another in nearly nine out of ten of our schools.
According to the BBC, in the ten years leading up to 2012, 140 teachers were known to have died from the rare asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. This averages out to 10 people per year nationwide. To put this into perspective, approximately 3,000 deaths were attributed to asbestos related diseases in 2012 by the HSE, which equates to annual asbestos related deaths in teachers accounting for approximately 0.3% of deaths recorded.
Clearly asbestos in schools is an extremely emotive subject, however it is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that asbestos regulation in the UK is world class, and very few countries take the issue as seriously as the UK does. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 strictly require that all parties responsible for the management of schools know where asbestos is within their buildings and put in place an effective management plan in order to manage the risks posed. Furthermore there are strict regulations governing the use of competent contractors in schools, thereby adding to the safeguards that we now have in place in order to protect the health of our teachers and our children.
Although politicians are calling for the complete removal of asbestos from schools, the reality of the situation is that the large majority of higher risk asbestos containing materials have in fact been removed already over the last twenty years – particularly from our most sensitive buildings, such as schools and hospitals. The asbestos that remains in schools is therefore likely to pose a comparatively low risk if well managed. The act of removing asbestos is very dangerous. Leaving it in-situ in a well-managed enclosed condition is often the safest option. Since children are supervised for the majority of their time in school, the risk posed to them by asbestos in 2015 is, in reality, negligible.
Alcumus is a market-leading provider of technology enabled risk management and certification services, supporting both UK and International clients with their Testing, Inspection & Certification (TIC) and Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC) strategies. Via its property compliance management portfolio Alcumus SM&MS, the company has extensive experience in helping prevent the risks associated with asbestos-related disease and assisting organisations with implementing best practice processes, such as awareness training, routine re-assessment and continuous management of risk.
For more information, please visit www.sm-ms.co.uk/services/asbestos/ or call Alcumus SM&MS on 01484 452349
Alex McMillan P402, P403, P404, P405, P406, S301, HND, BSc (Hons)
Asbestos Quality Manager, Alcumus SM&MS