The Guardian recently reported that around 700 schools in the UK may be unable to manage asbestos in their properties. The whole Parliamentary Group on Workplace Health and Safety estimates that 75% of UK public schools contain asbestos. The National Teachers Union (NUT) aims to remove all asbestos from schools, regardless of their location and condition. Professor Fifth, Chair of the Department of Epidemiology at the United Kingdom's School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Institute for Cancer Research, has recently said that removing asbestos will release more fiber and therefore pose more risk than leaving it in insert and manage it effectively.
Asbestos remains a safe material unless it is broken and asbestos fibers are not separated. Even common on-site activities, such as door knocking, removing a book from a shelf, or pinning a drawing to a wall, can lead to asbestos exposure.
The effective management of asbestos risk is a particular challenge for schools, as the location of asbestos-containing material ("ACM") may not be known or clearly identified.
Exposure to asbestos, even at low levels, can cause mesothelioma, an invariably fatal cancer. The incidence of mesothelioma is increasing and is currently the cause of approximately 2500 deaths per year in the UK. Since 2001, more than 200 teachers have died as a result of asbestos-related cancer.
There is evidence that exposure to asbestos at a younger age is more harmful than later life exposure and therefore, particular attention should be paid to the potential exposure of children to asbestos.
How to manage risk
HSE has prepared an asbestos management list for schools, which can be found here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/education/asbestos-checklist.pdf
How we can help
Increased awareness of mesothelioma is combined with a series of cases beginning with Bussey v Anglian Heating they have made the ongoing defense of low-level requests for cases of staff and students in schools more and more difficult to maintain.
Our expert disease experts are able to quickly identify cases that need to be resolved and those that need to be managed. The swift resolution of the liability issue ensures that costs are minimized and litigation costs are reduced as far as possible. We are carefully considering whether statistical evidence of low level, transient exposures would represent a negligible risk or would not substantially contribute to the risk and whether this would afford protection.
We can; support the identification of appropriate experts to assist in the preparation of asbestos surveys and the planning of any corrective action; support the preparation of risk assessments and study materials; and if necessary, educate the risks of asbestos
HSE prosecutions and executions:
Our regulatory team can provide proactive advice and training on health and safety; review policies and procedures; provide advice and representation in the event of an investigation by the HSE or other regulatory authority. Ensuring that you are informed, prepared and properly advised at every step of the way.