Asbestos is found in schools jeopardising safety of students and teachers
by Connor Burke
Major lack of standards and regulations put students and teachers in danger of asbestos exposure.
According to The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) almost 90% of schools contain asbestos, amplifying death rates for those working in these environments. The evidence shows that on a yearly basis 17 school employees die due to mesothelioma cancer.
Furthermore, the JUAC reveals that 1,863 academies in the UK contain asbestos. The dangerous substance is being continually uncovered, often found under the carpet, in ceilings and pipes – of these academies only 54 had been reported as of early 2018.
However, very little has been done to resolve this problem and so schools continue to suffer from poor health and safety regulations. Many academies either do not have a legally-required asbestos management plan in place or it is not well audited.
JUAC chair John McClean has called on the government to tackle this issue through creating a central database of the location and condition of all asbestos present in schools as well as setting up a programme for safe substance removal.
Politicians and Unions have been quick to voice their opinion on the matter.
Labour MP and Chair of the Asbestos in Schools Group, Rachel Reeves, believes children and school staff are at a major risk of asbestos exposure: “The Government needs to come up with a clear strategy to ensure any potential exposure to asbestos is minimised and that staff and pupils are kept safe. Parents and teachers have been left in the dark for too long about the extent of the problem.”
Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite, adds that the Treasury should increase spend on this issue to solve the problem once and for all. “It is not for nothing that asbestos has been known as ‘the silent killer’ for decades and these latest findings make shocking reading. In 2018, the life of no teacher, pupil or support staff should be under threat from this insidious and malignant presence”
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