Five London boroughs have been sent notices by the Health and Safety Executive, ordering them to clean up their act when it comes to dealing with asbestos in London´s schools. Harrow, Lambeth, Thurrock, Waltham Forest and Medway councils were all advised that their methods of managing the risks of asbestos were inadequate and that they were potentially putting thousands of teachers and children at risk from asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
Although the recent HSE press release asserts that the majority of local authorities in London are complying with official guidance, it also shows that a significant number are not managing their asbestos effectively, with a quarter of the 42 schools inspected requiring enforcement action to be taken through the issuing of 18 improvement notices and one prohibition notice.
In February, a report published by the asbestos consultants’ association – ATaC – of their inspections of a sample number of schools found serious flaws in asbestos management. Their report reflected what their members find in many schools up and down the country, as the chairman of ATaC stated: “These are not minor problems that have crept in over recent years; rather they are fundamental problems that are endemic in schools in the UK.” (You can read the report by clicking here)
A spokesperson for the “Asbestos in Schools” action group claimed that these findings confirmed AiS’s concerns that a significant proportion of schools are not managing their asbestos effectively.
“This new HSE report highlights that many schools and local authorities are still not safely managing their asbestos and underlines the urgent need for all the schools and authorities in the country that are not adequately protecting their occupants from the dangers of asbestos, to be identified and then brought up to a safe standard. “
They continued “The previous Government recognised that measures have to be taken to improve the asbestos management in schools by establishing an expert Steering Group under the Department for Education to recommend practical measures that will achieve this. The Coalition Government has not yet confirmed that the Steering Group will continue. This report shows that it is essential that it does.”
Many older public buildings in London, as well as residential dwellings, were constructed during a period when the risks of asbestos as a fire-proofing material were not fully understood. As well as being used in fabric form, asbestos was often mixed into cement, and fibres from both sources can lead to pleural illnesses if inhaled or absorbed into the digestive system through eating and drinking in a contaminated area. If you have any concerns about asbestos levels in your home, office or commercial premises, please contact one of the waste disposal experts in London featured in our Tradesmen´s Directory.