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Asbestos in Schools

Unison slams Waltham Forest Council for failing to protect children, teachers and workers form asbestos

(11 Aug 2010)


UNISON has been alarmed to learn that Waltham Forest Council has received 3 improvement notices from our health and safety police, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), in relation to asbestos management and legionella in Waltham Forest schools. Exposure to either could cause fatal diseases.

An HSE Inspector visited Henry Maynard Infants and Juniors, Kelmscott and Willowfield Schools and found that “none of the four schools visited had an asbestos management plan” and that the Council had not carried out actions to reduce the risk of legionnaires disease arising from the possible presence of legionella bacteria in the schools’ water systems. The HSE say as all four schools visited failed they are concerned this situation may be replicated throughout the borough. They therefore require the Council to review the situation in all community schools.

“It is very worrying to learn that the Council has not been carrying out its duties to safeguard the children and employees who attend Waltham Forest Schools. The HSE have told us that the Council has not met the requirements of its own risk assessment and we now have a situation where the Council is being ordered to carry out its duties under health and safety legislation. A further failure to act could result in prosecution.” said Su Manning, UNISON Branch Heath and Safety Convenor.

“It is quite staggering that this situation should arise at a time when we know that the government are planning to deregulate health and safety further and reduce the number of inspections and notices issued by the HSE. This will only serve to let employers get away with not treating health and safety at work seriously even more.” Su added.

Bill Palmer, UNISON’s Branch Health and Safety Officer, said: “This has been coming for some time. Waltham Forest schools have been allowed to scrimp and save on health and safety and it is no surprise to see the Council being criticised and given a notice to improve their monitoring of asbestos and the risk of legionella in schools. The trade unions have long complained of inadequate health and safety management in schools and hope that these notices will make the Council take the actions that are clearly laid out in their own risk assessments and the inspectors report.”

 

Su concluded that “UNISON believes that Health and Safety could be one of the biggest losers under the new Academies scheme with schools being  unaccountable to even a poorly performing local authority and the average time between HSE inspections being 38 years. Only with a mixture of capital expenditure and robust Health and Safety enforcement can schools be a safe and healthy place for students and workers alike”

Contact: Su Manning or Dave Knight on 020 8496 4703 or 07837 380236.