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Asbestos in Schools

Press release

JUAC calls for improved asbestos management in schools

Leeds, 10 October 2011


The nation's education trade unions today renewed calls for government to proactively manage asbestos in schools following the recent publication of the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) figures on enforcement action taken against schools. The enforcement was the result of a round of inspections of mainly non-local authority schools.

The Joint Union Asbestos Campaign (JUAC) said today that legislation and the fear of prosecution are both key drivers in dutyholders' decisions to actively manage asbestos in schools, whereas deregulation of the HSE is a disincentive.

JUAC, which comprises representatives from the major education unions and the education sections of the general industrial trade unions, notes the HSE's report shows that out of 158 visits to schools, 49 Improvement notices were issued between November 2010 and July 2011 to two local authority schools and 30 schools outside local authority control for failures to manage asbestos. This represents 19% of non-local authority schools inspected failing to comply with their responsibilities to manage asbestos properly. Offences include failure to manage asbestos, failure to identify asbestos, failure to undertake an asbestos survey, absence of an asbestos management plan, failure to train staff, and asbestos debris left after refurbishment.

Michael Lees of the Asbestos in Schools campaign said "It was almost thirty years ago that schools were told to identify their asbestos and introduce a system of asbestos management, and yet these findings coupled with those from the survey of Local Authorities last year, are evidence that a significant number of schools are still failing to manage asbestos."

Sixteen of the schools in the report had enforcement action carried out because they had failed to train their staff. The Department for Education will soon launch a website so that this can be achieved. However it is underfunded and training is not mandatory.

JUAC chair, Julie Winn, said "The HSE's conclusion that raising awareness around asbestos produces benefits to dutyholders and workers is in fact a key component in the AiS and JUAC campaign. Raising awareness and improved training in the management of asbestos is fundamental to health and safety in UK schools containing asbestos. Recently published government figures show that at least 75% of all schools in the UK have buildings which use asbestos containing materials."

Ends.

For further information, please contact Julie Winn on 0113 245 0733.