Back to School

Not only was it a return to school for children and teachers this September, but it was also highly likely to be a return to a building that contains asbestos for many of them. With more than 75 per cent of the 33,600 schools in England containing asbestos/asbestos containing materials (ACMs), much of which is poorly maintained, there is a risk that children and staff could be exposed to the deadly carcinogenic. In fact, more than 200 school teachers have died from mesothelioma between 2003 and 2012 and an unknown number of teachers, schoolchildren, cleaners, administration staff and caretakers are at risk of being diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease over the coming years.

The ease of exposure through inhalation of fibres in schools was assessed in 1987, when it was discovered that slamming a door only five times released amosite fibres at levels more than 600 times greater than background levels. In 2006 the issue of door slamming within schools was re-identified and the asbestos fibres ejected into classrooms were at levels 800 times greater than background levels; another way asbestos is disturbed and released into a classroom is through displaying children’s work on walls with pins.

To prevent exposure for those in schools currently, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health has investigated the scale of this issue and made a number of recommendations for action. These suggestions include professional and competent asbestos management for the building, which ARG Surveys Ltd, with more than 30 years of experience in managing, advising and supporting clients in surveys, asbestos abatement and management of removal contractors, is wholly capable of handling.

Having worked on a broad spectrum of projects for commercial, industrial, public and government sectors, ARG is able to assess the risk of a building through a high quality, thorough asbestos management survey. This type of survey assesses the type and condition of any ACM within the building during the normal occupation and use of premises.

Should asbestos or ACMs be found, it is the responsibility of the duty holder to maintain or repair the property and keep an up-to-date record of the location and condition of asbestos in the building. The duty holder must also prepare a plan to set out how the risks from such materials will be managed and periodically review and monitor said plan to ensure it remains relevant and current. It is imperative to the safety of those working on the building to have information on the location and conditions of these materials in advance of any projects beginning.

Other options from the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health include training for staff and phased removal to prevent the release of asbestos fibres; viewed as cheaper and safer in the long run than effective management over a long period of time, this option will result in the issue of asbestos in schools eventually being resolved. However, this effective option is hindered due to government policy in the UK that states asbestos is to be left alone as long as it is in good condition and unlikely to be disturbed. With the Joint Union Asbestos Committee warning that there is an urgent need for action against asbestos, there is increasing pressure on the government to take action against asbestos and change the rules when it comes to the safe, planned removal of asbestos within schools. It is time for the government to brush up on the history of asbestos/ACMs

and the dangers of this deadly carcinogenic and realise, when it comes to asbestos exposure, lessons must be learnt.

With more than 30 years of experience in the construction and asbestos industry, we at ARG have developed a strong reputation for reliability, consistent quality and a stringent commitment to keeping up-to-date with the most recent legislative developments and requirements. Striving to bring excellence to each and every project, we believe there are no such things as problems, only opportunities to succeed.

Through thorough preparation and compliance to all HSE guidelines, we ensure any project we take on is completed in a manner that ensures customer satisfaction. Should you require a fully certified specialist in the field of asbestos survey and removal, contact ARG.

Telephone: 020 8804 8008

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