Ignoring an issue that is putting pupils and teachers at risk, is not an option, according to the not-for-profit campaign group, the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).
In a response to the Department for Education’s policy review on asbestos management in schools, which closes today, APIL argues that the health issues related to asbestos are not going to disappear if the substance is ignored. The association called for a strategic plan for asbestos removal and containment,the reintroduction of proactive inspections and clarity about who is responsible for asbestos risk in academies, free schools, private schools and nurseries.
“Children and those working in schools cannot be protected if the school is unaware of the location of the asbestos,” said Matthew Stockwell, president of APIL. “It is extremely important to locate the asbestos so the risks of exposure can be assessed regularly and managed, so a systematic plan for removal can be developed.”
Asbestos is present in 75 per cent of schools in England and 85 per cent of schools in Wales and there is no plan in place to deal with this, except to ignore the toxic substance and not disturb it. Asbestos exposure is not a visible risk as asbestos fibres cannot be seen, and the effects of exposure do not develop until many years later.
“All the asbestos in place is ageing and many school buildings are deteriorating” said Matthew. “With proactive Health and Safety Executive inspections cancelled since 2011, and school governors who may have no experience in this area now responsible for asbestos management, this could be a recipe for disaster.”