Asbestos in Schools

Written evidence submitted by Julie Winn, Chair of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC)

Executive Summary

1. JUAC is a trade union campaigning committee comprising the six main education unions: Association of School and College Leaders; Association of Teachers and Lecturers; National Association of Head Teachers; NASUWT; National Union of Teachers; Voice; plus the education sections of Unite, UNISON, UCATT and the GMB. JUAC has the objective of making all UK schools and colleges safe from the dangers of asbestos. In the longer term we wish to see all asbestos removed from all schools and colleges.  However JUAC recognises that, realistically, the focus in the short and medium term must be on safe management of asbestos in schools and colleges. In this submission "schools" will have the meaning "schools and colleges".

The Key Issues around Asbestos in Schools

2. The main points of this submission are:

a. The full extent of the problem of asbestos in schools is not known as the statistics present an incomplete picture of the number of teacher deaths, there are limited statistics for support staff but there are no statistics for the number of pupils that have died. Knowledge and science is incomplete in terms of the vulnerability of children to asbestos and this calls for a precautionary approach to be adopted with schools being acknowledged as "unique workplaces".

b. Existing statutory and regulatory legislation has focused on the dangers of ‘disturbing’ asbestos during maintenance or building work. Consequently unacceptable standards have been set in schools. The Government should re-instate proactive inspections to assess the standards of asbestos management in all schools, including academies that have left local authority control.

c. The Government’s policy of managing asbestos rather than planning for its phased removal is flawed and does not present a credible means of safely managing the asbestos in UK schools. More than 75 per cent of Britain’s schools contain

asbestos (i) .The Government should set a programme for the phased removal of asbestos from all schools, with priority being given to those schools where the asbestos is considered to be most dangerous or damaged.

_____________________________________________________________________

(i) E-mail Department for Education 20 Jun 2011

d. The precautionary principle should be adopted in assessing the risks posed by asbestos in schools. Reliable and complete data should be collected by Government to enable a proper cost benefit analysis to be carried out to allow proportionate resources to be allocated in prioritising removal in those schools containing the most dangerous asbestos. The Government needs to establish the extent and condition of asbestos in schools. It should urgently reverse its decision to exclude asbestos from the Property Data Survey Programme.

e. There should be an environmental airborne fibre level for schools and the Government should commission a trial of air sampling to identify airborne asbestos fibres.

f. The Government should set standards for, and enhance the funding of, current asbestos management training for duty holders and asbestos awareness training for staff working on schools containing asbestos. The training should be mandatory.

g. As more schools move outside of local authority control and with the uncertainty surrounding public liability insurance - the Government’s must now address the question of how future claims will be met.

h. There needs to be a policy of openness so that staff and parents are fully aware of the presence of asbestos and what measures their school is taking to ensure that occupants are safe.

What evidence exists concerning the impact of asbestos (in its

various forms) on young people and teachers

3. JUAC wishes to highlight that asbestos in schools impacts not just on teachers and young people, but on all staff in schools; including head teachers and support staff.

4. Exposure to asbestos fibres through inhalation is known to cause mesothelioma; a fatal cancer of the lining of the lungs. The disease is invariably fatal with most victims dying within 18 months of diagnosis. It often does not appear until around 40 years after the person first breathes in the dust and even low levels of exposure can cause mesothelioma to develop.

5. According to the available statistics the number of teachers dying from mesothelioma in Britain has increased from 3 a year in the 1980s to 14 a year in the last ten year period and more than 253 school teachers have died of mesothelioma since 1980 with more than 139 dying in the last ten years (ii).

(ii)HSE Mesothelioma occupational statistics: Male and female deaths aged 16-74 1980-2000 Table 3,4 Southampton Occupation Group. 5 year time period 1980-2000 excluding 1981. E-mail HSE Statistics Unit/Lees 15 Jul 2008. Mesothelioma deaths in the education sector for males and females 2001-2005. HSE Mesothelioma mortality in Great Britain: Analyses by Geographical area and occupation 2005 Tables 11, 13 (2002-2005). HSE Epidemiology Unit CSAG, table 0977/Lees 2 Mar 2011 HSE Epidemiology Unit, table 0925./Lees+ 25 Feb 2011

6. The statistics are unreliable in terms of the actual number of teacher deaths caused by exposure to asbestos in schools.

7. The statistics do not include teacher mesothelioma deaths above the age of 74 years yet many people do die from mesothelioma above the age of 74 years. Teachers tend to be exposed to low levels of asbestos over a long period and this tends to lead to longer

latency periods (iii). It is reasonable to assume that an above average number of teacher deaths occur above age 74 years.

8. We do not know the number of deaths per annum from asbestos exposure in schools in relation to support staff but from the limited information available we do know that school caretakers, cleaners, cooks, secretaries, teaching assistants and nursery nurses have died from mesothelioma (ii).

9. We know that pupils have died from mesothelioma as a result of negligent exposure to asbestos in school. There are no statistics for pupil deaths from mesothelioma. One of the main problems is that when clinicians take histories from patients these tend to be limited to occupational exposure.

10. All mesothelioma victims, irrespective of their environmental or later occupational exposure, have attended school and the Medical Research Council in its report Fibrous Materials in the Environment 1997 stated "Children attending schools built prior to 1975 are likely to inhale around three million respirable asbestos fibres …..It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that the entire school population has been exposed to asbestos in school buildings…Exposure to asbestos may therefore constitute a significant part of total exposure" (iv).

11. Childhood exposure to asbestos increases the risk of mesothelioma because children will live longer for the disease to develop (v). It has been estimated that a child of five is 5.2 times more likely to develop mesothelioma by the age of 80 than their teacher aged 30 (vi). The Committee on Carcinogenicity is considering whether children are intrinsically more vulnerable to asbestos because of their developing physiology but the science is thought to be incomplete.

12. Unless we have accurate and complete statistical and scientific evidence the extent of the problem cannot be known. However we know that the USA has assessed that for every teacher and support staff death from mesothelioma nine former pupils would subsequently die from their exposure to asbestos at school (vii).

(iii) Asbestos exposures in malignant mesothelioma of pleura; a survey of 557 cases Bianchi Industrial health 2001,39, 161-167 . Malignant mesothelioma due to environmental exposure to asbestos: follow up of a Turkish cohort living in a rural area. Chestp2228. Metintas Mesothelioma: cases associated with non-occupational and low dose exposures Hillerdal Occup Environ Med 1999:56:505-513

(iv) Fibrous Materials in the Environment Medical Research Council Institute for Environment and Health P72 and 73 1007

(v) Asbestos. Vol 1 Final Report of the Advisory Committee. The risk to children. 1979 Para 112 P60

(vi) HSE Statistics Branch Darnton The quantitative risks of mesothelioma in relation to low-level asbestos exposure. BOHS 17 Oct 2007.

(vii) EPA Support document for the proposed rule on friable asbestos-containing materials in school buildings EPA report 560/12-80-003 p92. American Academy of Pediatrics Asbestos Exposure in schools Pediatrics vol 79, no 2 Feb 1987 p301- 305 Reaffirmed May 1994.

13. Proportionately this could in future years equate to well over 100 deaths a year in Britain. According to HSE cost benefit analysis this would represent a value for preventing a fatality of £200,000,000 per annum; taking the bench mark figure for death caused by cancer of £2,000,000 (2001 prices) (viii).

14. In the past when the issue of placing radio/phone masts at or near schools it was considered at that time that the knowledge and science were incomplete and the Government, rightly, adopted the precautionary principle.

15. It must be noted that staff and pupils cannot control their exposure to asbestos in school and do not assume the risks associated with the exposure voluntarily. As such JUAC considers that any policy approach that adopts anything other than a precautionary approach is socially and morally unacceptable and where there is uncertainty HSE policy is to and should err on the side of health and safety (viii).

Whether current regulations and responsibilities for the management

of asbestos in schools are adequate.

16. Legal responsibility for health and safety (including the risks posed by asbestos) in UK schools rests with the employer under the Health and Safety Act 1974, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and, specifically in relation to asbestos, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Existing statutory and regulatory legislation has focused on the dangers of ‘disturbing’ asbestos during maintenance or building work consequently unacceptable standards have been set in schools.

17. There is no safe threshold below which it is safe to be exposed to airborne asbestos fibres (ix). As schools are unique workplaces asbestos risks in schools should be assessed using the precautionary principle.

18. Many Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) can be found in schools, e.g. lagging on pipes and boilers, sprayed asbestos insulating paint used on piping, walls and ceilings made with asbestos insulating board (AIB). ACMs are also present in door surrounds and within certain types of heaters. All of the three main types of asbestos have been used in school buildings.

19. Amosite (brown asbestos) was used extensively in school buildings between 1945 and 1975 and is up to 100 times more likely to cause mesothelioma than chrysotile (white) (x).

Britain has the highest incidence of mesothelioma in the world. A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report concluded in 2009 that this was because Britain imported more amosite than any other country (xi).

(viii) HSE Reducing Risks, protecting people HSE decision-making process 2001

(ix) WATCH committee minutes. 10 Nov 2009 http://www.hse.gov.uk/aboutus/meetings/iacs/acts/watch/101109/minutes-nov09.pdf The Quantitative Risks of Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer in Relation to Asbestos Exposure Ann. Occup. Hyg., Vol. 44, No. 8, pp. 565–601, 2000 Hodgson and Darnton Is there a threshold?

(x) The Quantitative Risks of Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer in Relation to Asbestos Exposure Ann. Occup. Hyg., Vol. 44, No. 8, pp. 565–601, 2000 Hodgson and Darnton Is there a threshold?

(xi) HSE Occupational, domestic and environmental mesothelioma risks in Britain. 2009 . IMIG Congress Abstract 25-27 Sep 2008

20. In a school with asbestos in good condition background asbestos airborne fibre levels should not be greater than 0.0005f/ml (xii).

21. Schools are not subject to air sampling and so we do not know what the airborne levels are in UK schools.

22. Government policy relies on schools having robust asbestos management systems in place and Government says that it is safer to manage the asbestos than to remove it.

23. The policy is flawed.

24. So long as UK schools contain asbestos there is the potential for asbestos airborne fibre levels to be or become and remain significantly above background levels thus materially increasing the risk of mesothelioma for those occupants exposed.

25. Numerous asbestos incidents have occurred in UK schools (xiii).

26. Most recently following the closure of Cwmcarn High School following widespread asbestos contamination, a check on local authorities’ compliance with statutory duties was ordered by the Minister for Education, Leighton Andrews. The findings of this review left the Minister ‘not sufficiently assured’ that local authorities were discharging their statutory duty to manage asbestos (xiv).

27. When incidents occur the clearance indicator level is applied by HSE before allowing pupils back into the school (xv). This is an unacceptable standard to apply in a school. The clearance indicator level is 20 times greater than the background level of schools with asbestos in good condition.

________________________________________________________________________

(xii) Fibrous Materials in the Environment Institute for Environment and Health. P71

(xiii) See examples of asbestos incidents: http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/pdfnewslinks/ASBESTOS%20INCIDENTS%20IN%20SCHOOLS%2014%20Dec%2009.pdf and: http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/npaper%20articles.htm

Summary of enforcement action http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/pdfnewslinks/HSE%20ENFORCEMENT%20SUMMARY%20%20NOV%2010%20to%20Jul%2011.pdf

(xiv) Written Statement by the Welsh Government. Leighton Andrews, Minister for Education and Skills Asbestos in schools. 27 Nov 2012 http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/pdfnewslinks/%20statement%20Welsh%20Government%20Asbestos%20in%20Schools%2027%20Nov.pdf

(xv) HSC CAWR 2006 Work with materials containing asbestos ACOP

28. The Clearance Indicator is a workplace level for asbestos contractors. Because of the focus of the existing legislation, the Approved Codes of Practice and the Guidance unacceptable standards are being applied to schools

29. At the clearance indicator level teachers, support staff and pupils would inhale 6,000-10,000 fibres an hour.

30. As technology improves, the threshold levels on school exposure should be reduced to the lowest level possible and JUAC would wish to see an environmental (rather than workplace clearance) level set for schools as a minimum standard.

31. The Government cannot just say that it relies on schools having robust systems in place. It has to ensure that schools have robust systems in place.

32. It cannot do so if there is no national database recording the type, condition and extent of asbestos in UK schools against which HSE could then measure, by proactive inspection, the systems of asbestos management.

33. The Government claims that it is safer to manage asbestos than to remove it yet despite requests to the Department for Education no evidence has been produced to JUAC to support this claim.

34. In 2010 the CEO of Partnership for Schools stated that "80% of our schools are beyond their shelf life." (xvi). The James Review concluded that "Significant parts of the school estate were and are in an unacceptable state." The review also expressed concern about the particular vulnerability of children in schools by stating "Clearly, taking into account the potential vulnerability of young people, there needs to be good scrutiny and control over buildings in which they will spend much of their day." (xvii)

35. HSE do not carry out proactive inspections of schools and so cannot provide reliable information on which to base a risk assessment. The limited information collected recently by HSE informs JUAC that a significant proportion of schools are not managing their asbestos to an adequate standard.

36. The 2011 HSE survey of a sample of non local authority schools resulted in

enforcement action being taken against 17 per cent of the schools inspected (xviii).

(xvi) Tim Byles, Chief Executive, Partnership for Schools Radio 4 Today Programme 1 April 2010

(xvii) Chief Executive PfS 1 Apr 2010 http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_8598000/8598276.stm

(xviii) Press release http://www.hse.gov.uk/press/2011/hse-asbestosinschools.htm list of schools inspected: www.hse.gov.uk/services/education/asbestos-management-1011.htm

HSE Enforcement data base: http://www.hse.gov.uk/notices/notices/notice_list.asp?PN=2&rdoNType=&NT=&SN=F&x=23&EO=LIKE&SF=SICD&SV=education&ST=N&y=10&SO=DNIS

37. Members of the Asbestos Consultants Association, who visit thousands of schools throughout the country, have also stated that "The evidence is that the system of asbestos management in many schools is not of an adequate standard. In some it is ineffective ,in others almost non existent and in some it is at times dangerous…" (xix)

38. Under existing legislation asbestos management surveys are not mandatory and when a survey is carried out the Regulations do not require a United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) accredited surveying company to undertake the work. Consequently schools can opt for the cheapest option rather than the best.

39. These failings in the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2012 (CAWR 2012) will inevitably lead to inconsistent standards of asbestos management in UK Schools.

40. Existing legislation does not go far enough to ensure that there are robust systems in

place for the management of asbestos in schools.

41. The evidence from both HSE and the Asbestos Consultants Association suggests that

A significant proportion of schools do not have robust systems in place.

42. Many schools will have commissioned a specialist survey in or around 2004 when the "duty to manage" asbestos regulation came into force. It is not known whether those have been reviewed by an asbestos expert since and few schools in the absence of a new specialist survey will have the competence to assess whether the condition of the ACMs has deteriorated.

43. A national assessment of the type, condition and extent of asbestos in UK schools with

the data collated on a national central database would allow a proper risk assessment to

be carried out so that proportionate resources could be allocated and a programme for

phased removal of the most dangerous asbestos developed.

44. The Government claim that it is too late now to collect information within the Property

Data Survey Programme (PDSP); JUAC called for this prior to the PDSP.

45. JUAC is not asking for asbestos surveys to be carried in individual schools and the

surveys recorded; but simply for the information already held by local authorities on the

asbestos in their schools to be collected held nationally (before more schools exit local

authority control).

46. The failure to collect the available data on asbestos during the PDSP and to enter it onto the national database means that Government cannot realistically begin to assess the type, condition and extent of asbestos in UK schools.

(xix) Assessment of asbestos management in schools Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association 24 Jan 2010 http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/pdfnewslinks/ASSESSMENT%20OF%20ASBESTOS%20MANAGEMENT%20IN%20SCHOOLS%20ATAC.%2022%20FEB%202010.pdf?zoom_highlight=atac#search="atac"

47. The Government is also unable to use the information in a cost benefit analysis to ensure that proportionate resources are allocated to the prevention of fatalities.

48. It is not known what the current annual costs of asbestos management in schools.

49. This is an important factor in the equation when cost benefit is being considered.

Consequently we do not know what return the Government is making on the issue of the

management of asbestos in schools.

50. We do know that if at least 14 teachers a year are dying then the annual Value per Fatality (VPF) is at a minimum £28,000,000; taking the HSE VPF figure of £2,000,000 per cancer death.

51. Despite the serious risk that the release of asbestos fibres poses many in the schools workforce are unaware of the presence of asbestos within their workplace and are not trained in asbestos awareness.

52. Asbestos is described by HSE in their campaign which focuses on those working with asbestos as "Asbestos - The Hidden Killer".

53. In schools asbestos is often hidden in inaccessible locations (in ceiling, wall and floor voids) but it is also often in plain view (AIB walls). It has been known since the 1980s that routine classroom activities may cause the release of harmful fibres into the environment (xx).

54. The lack of transparency around the issue of the presence of asbestos in schools and the gap in knowledge and expertise of those responsible for managing asbestos and those working in schools containing asbestos means that there is an ever present danger that staff and pupils will disturb asbestos resulting in fibre release.

55. A 2010 survey of over 600 school safety representatives showed that that only 28 per cent of respondents said the presence of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) was clearly marked and only one third of respondents were aware that an asbestos register was kept (xxi).

56. None of the existing legislation makes it clear that asbestos management training for the duty holder is mandatory; some argue that it is not. None of the existing legislation makes it clear that asbestos awareness training for staff liable to disturb asbestos is mandatory; some argue that it is not.

(xx)Asbestos in Schools The scale of the problem and the implications. 30 Oct 2011 P11-25 http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/pdfnewslinks/AiSreportonASBESTOSINSCHOOLS.pdf

(xxi) JUAC survey 2010

57. The Control of Asbestos Work Regulations 2012 and the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999 are not sufficiently clear; such that confusion remains around the issue of mandatory asbestos management and awareness training. There is consequently a wide range of competency in schools around the issue of asbestos management and awareness.

58. We must look back to the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and remind ourselves that the objective of that fundamental piece of legislation was not only to secure the health, safety and welfare of people at work but also the protection of people not at work against risks to their health and safety arising out of work activities.

59. We must also look to the future and consider the moves in the European Union and the work of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs on "Asbestos related occupational health threats and the prospects for abolishing all existing asbestos". Education has been specifically identified within the report as a key area for the start of action plans for asbestos removal (xxii).

60. As the number of academies rises and more schools move outside of local authority control there is increasing confusion as to who the duty holder is under the CAW 2012.

61. The legal responsibilities of trustees and governors in schools outside of local authority control may extend under CAW 2012 to include the management of asbestos in their schools (xxiii).

62. In advocating the precautionary principle JUAC would seek legislative change to make both asbestos management training for the duty holder (with a statutory definition for the duty holder) and asbestos awareness training for all staff working in schools containing asbestos mandatory.

The impact of changes to capital building programmes on asbestos management in schools.

63. Soon after the Coalition Government came to power in 2010, the BSF programme, which had been due to either rebuild or refurbish every secondary school in England, was scrapped, leading to the cancellation of more than 700 school building projects. Instead the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, commissioned a review of capital funding for schools, the findings of which were published in April 2011.

(xxii) http://www.europarl.europa.eu/committees/en/empl/draft-reports.html?linkedDocument=true&ufolderComCode=EMPL&ufolderLegId=7&ufolderId=09306&urefProcYear=&urefProcNum=&urefProcCode=#menuzone

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?type=COMPARL&reference=PE-494.492&format=PDF&language=EN&secondRef=03

(xxiii) http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/education-committee/inquiries/parliament-2010/the-role-of-school-governing-bodies/  

64. The ‘Review of Education Capital’, led by Sebastian James, was critical of the fact that there was no centrally-collated data on the condition of the £110 billion school estate in England and recommended that the Department should collate all existing information sources and establish a simple, well-designed database to manage this information (PDSP).

65. The Government accepted this recommendation; however it specifically excluded an audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in the school estate from the process (xxiv). This decision is perverse and illogical and should be reversed.

Why should asbestos be included in the audit of school building stock?

· Asbestos represents one of the largest costs in relation to both refurbishment and maintenance.

· Effective management of asbestos is a continuous drain on resources – the Government should be in a position to quantify such costs.

· Even the most basic repairs are impeded by the presence of asbestos.

· The longer that asbestos remains in schools, the more likely it is that its condition will deteriorate and the harder it becomes to manage.

· When schools are refurbished considerable cost overruns occur through unexpected asbestos remedial and removal work.

· Each LA should already hold data on the extent, type and condition of asbestos in its schools, so it would be relatively simple, and also represent sound financial practice, to collate this data centrally.

· Central collation of data would enable the Government to make realistic funding estimates and to allocate proportionate resources. Making financial estimates on poor quality data is something the James Review criticised and yet, by excluding asbestos from the audit, the DfE is doing nothing to address this criticism and is simply perpetuating the problem.

· If asbestos were included in the audit, it would enable schools to be prioritised for refurbishment or replacement according to the risk they posed to occupants.

(xxiv) Property data survey programme memorandum of supplementary information 17 Oct 2011 p8

See an analysis of the exclusion of asbestos from the audit of school buildings: http://www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk/pdfnewslinks/AUDIT%20EXCLUSION%20OF%20ASBESTOS.pdf

Whether Government policy concerning asbestos in schools requires change.

The Current Government Policy

66. Schools are unique workplaces because they not only contain employees but they also contain large numbers of children at risk from asbestos exposure.

67. There are two strands to current government policy:

1. Schools are declared to be a ‘low risk environment’(xxv)

2. Asbestos which is in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed or damaged is better left in place and managed until the end of the life of the building as this presents less risk of exposure to the occupants than the process of removing it (xxvi)

68. This policy is dependent on:

· the asbestos being in good condition;

· schools having rigorous and effective asbestos management systems and the necessary resources, including trained personnel to operate these systems.

JUAC Comment

69. Successive governments have had the same policy of not removing asbestos. Consequently, most of the asbestos remains in situ in schools. It is likely that much is no longer in good condition and has been disturbed or damaged.

70. If asbestos is present there will always be the possibility that it will be disturbed and asbestos fibres released. There is an ongoing risk to occupants. Numerous asbestos incidents have occurred and are still occurring in schools.

71. Government policy requires change. For this to happen there needs to be recognition that schools are not low risk environments in relation to asbestos. They are unique workplaces because of the number of and vulnerability of their occupants.

72. HSE will only become involved once an exposure incident has occurred and pupils and staff put at risk. Enforcement is reactive and the outcome is a complete failure of the principle of "prevention of risk". This is not a satisfactory long-term strategy for ensuring safe standards are achieved. Whilst the Government continue to move towards the deregulatory approach the fact that schools are unique workplaces and the economic, social and moral cost of another Cwmcarn school, mean that this cannot be allowed to happen around the issue of asbestos in schools.

(xxv) Good Health and Safety for Everyone. Targeting and Reducing Inspections 21 Mar 2011

(xxvi) Parliamentary Written Answer Minister of State for Schools 8th February 2011

73. Although the DfE recently launched web-based asbestos awareness guidance, asbestos management training is piecemeal and non-mandatory.

74. Given that the Government has failed to commit to a national audit, let alone the prioritised phased removal of asbestos, it is essential that all those with responsibilities for managing asbestos – be they head teachers, bursars or governors – are trained according to their role. Such training should be mandatory and properly funded. It would appear that, having published basic on-line asbestos awareness guidance, that the DfE is satisfied that it has done enough for head teachers, governors and other managers to safely manage their asbestos. JUAC disagrees.

75. Large numbers of schools are leaving local authority control to become academies, thereby potentially losing the expertise of the local authority and compounding the problem of inadequate training described above.

Policy Changes

76. JUAC proposes the following policy changes:

1. Risk Assessment

The Government needs to establish the extent and condition of asbestos in schools. It should reverse its decision to exclude asbestos from the Property Data Survey Programme.

2. Phased removal

There is a serious problem that must be addressed in a pragmatic way. The Government should set a programme for the phased removal of asbestos from all schools, with priority being given to those schools where the asbestos is considered to be most dangerous or damaged.

3. Inspections

The Government should re-instate proactive inspections to assess the standards of asbestos management in all schools, including academies that have left local authority control. This is a necessary and proportionate response to evidence gathered by recent HSE inspection programmes and the increasing number of incidents of inadequate asbestos management in schools.

4. Training

The Government should set standards for, and enhance the funding of, current asbestos awareness training and asbestos management training and it should be mandatory.

5. Airborne fibre levels

There should be an environmental airborne fibre level for schools and the Government should commission a trial of air sampling to identify airborne asbestos fibres.

6. Information and openness

There needs to be a policy of openness so that staff and parents are fully aware of the presence of asbestos and what measures their school is taking to ensure that occupants are safe.

7. Public Liability Insurance

In general pupils and non-employees are not insured for asbestos exposure risks in schools (xxviii). Local authorities self insure, however most academies or schools outside of local authority control do not have the resources to do so. Governing bodies are legally responsible for meeting any future claims. How will Government address the issue of how these claims will be met in the future?

Conclusion

77. It is essential that Government Policy is reviewed and that a precautionary approach is taken on the issue of asbestos in schools. The HSE advice to Government is that the risk in schools is low; primarily due to the low levels of airborne asbestos fibres but it is accepted that low level exposure causes mesothelioma; a fatal cancer that is killing increasing numbers of teachers. There is a lack of transparency around the presence of asbestos in schools and it is time that action is taken to investigate these issues fully.

February 2013

(xxviii) Parliamentary written answer Schools asbestos. Ian Lavery MP/ Minister of State Nick Gibb MP 21 Mar 2012

Prepared 25th March 2013