NEARLY 700 schools could have unsafe asbestos in their buildings putting thousands of kids and staff at risk, it was claimed.
The Department for Education has referred 676 state schools to the Health and Safety Executive, according to The Guardian.
1 Nearly 700 schools ‘could have unsafe asbestos in their buildings putting thousands of pupils at risk’Credit: Getty – Contributor
Trade union bosses branded the numbers “shocking” and warned cash-strapped investigators might not be able to fully probe all the cases.
Around 500 people a year die from asbestos-related illnesses, according to official figures.
Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “The fact that nearly 700 schools have been referred to HSE because they weren’t able to satisfy the DfE that they were managing their asbestos in line with legal requirements, is a shocking indictment of current systems of oversight.
“The lives of thousands of staff and pupils could be at risk in these schools.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “The safety of pupils and staff is our highest priority which is why we have asked schools to provide information through the asbestos management assurance process.
“This data will help the department develop a greater understanding of the management of asbestos in schools.
“We plan to publish a report of the findings shortly.
What is asbestos?Asbestos is a term for a group of minerals made of microscopic fibres. Before its dangers were known, asbestos was often used in buildings for insulation, flooring and roofing and sprayed on ceilings and walls. It is now banned in the UK.
Buildings constructed before the year 2000 may still have asbestos in them. If the asbestos-containing materials inside these buildings remain intact, they pose very little risk.
It’s only when these materials are damaged or disturbed that tiny asbestos fibres can be released into the air and breathed into your lungs.
The symptoms of asbestos-related disease take many years – even decades – to appear after the original exposure to asbestos, so exposure a long time ago might only be showing up as a disease today.
HSE Spokeswomen said: “The HSE have worked with the DfE to use the AMAP returns to provide targeting intelligence for a planned programme of proactive visits to schools.
“This identified a number of schools in England to select from to be included within the profile of HSE visits planned across Great Britain.
“The visits will assess compliance in respect of the duty to manage asbestos with the school buildings.”
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