Bureau Veritas is urging the education sector to heed the government’s impending 15th February deadline to submit outstanding asbestos management surveys, as the legacy of asbestos exposure in UK schools is leading to increasing deaths.
It comes after MP’s issued a stark warning that they were ‘seriously concerned’ that almost a quarter of schools have not responded to repeated requests for information on the amount of asbestos in school buildings and how risk is being managed .
It is estimated that around 86% of UK schools contain asbestos and according to the
National Union of Teachers, asbestos related deaths have increased significantly from an average of three per year during the period 1980-85 to an average of 17 per year. This equates to at least 319 teachers dying from mesothelioma – the most serious and incurable form of asbestos cancer – since 2013, with a further 200-300 former pupils estimated to succumb to diseases linked to asbestos exposure at school later in life.
The Department for Education’s Asbestos Management Assurance Process (AMAP) was introduced in March last year, with the aim of collecting data on asbestos management in schools to ensure compliance with legal obligations to protect staff and pupils under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. To-date the submission deadline has been extended three times, with the upcoming February date being the final chance for the remaining 23% of schools to respond.
Matthew Potter, Service Line Manager – Asbestos at Bureau Veritas, comments: “All schools, colleges and universities have an obligation to ensure that premises are safe for staff, pupils and visitors, which includes the effective management and reporting of any asbestos on site. Despite the huge progress that has been made over the last two decades in asbestos management, the reality is that there is still a massive job to do in eradicating asbestos from our older building stock, particularly in schools. Staff and pupils at schools across the UK are particularly at risk due to the high proportion of school buildings built in the post-war era, when asbestos was a common component of many popular building products.
“Schools therefore need to take decisive action to provide assurances that asbestos is being properly managed to negate the serious risk asbestos exposure poses. Especially concerning the increased risk of early exposure to asbestos, with reports suggesting that a child exposed at age five is five times more likely to develop mesothelioma than someone exposed at age 30 .”
In addition to mesothelioma and lung cancer, other serious diseases including asbestosis, pleural thickening and other forms of cancer can be caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. During the period 2006-2016, more than £10million in compensation was awarded to former pupils and members of staff exposed to asbestos in schools in England and Wales .
Bureau Veritas offers a comprehensive range of services to help businesses and organisations, including schools, in achieving and maintaining asbestos control compliance. This includes building surveys, annual re-inspections, project management of asbestos remediation, site risk assessments, air monitoring, four stage clearance air testing, laboratory sample analysis, management plans and training – all of which can be undertaken within school holidays.
For further information, call 0345 600 1828 or visit www.bureauveritas.co.uk