The Department of Education has launched a policy review on the asbestos management in schools, after it was discovered that children are particularly vulnerable to the dangers of asbestos.
The move is also the result of extensive lobbying by the Joint Union Asbestos Campaign and the Asbestos in Schools Group – two groups with which UNISON plays a central role.
The consultation closing date is 31 March.
The review was called by the education minister, following a study on the relative vulnerability of children to asbestos. It concluded that younger children are more vulnerable and at greater risk than adults, because they live longer and so asbestos-related cancer has longer to develop.
UNISON welcomes this overdue review.
A recent survey was sent out by all unions to question trade union representatives and members about asbestos management in their schools. The survey was conducted jointly by seven trade unions representing teaching and school support staff, and 83% of the responses to the survey were from UNISON members.
Nearly 90% of respondents had not received such training. Only 8% had received training or information on how to avoid disturbing asbestos in their school.
For the remaining respondents (4%), the question was not applicable, because they had responsibility for asbestos management. These figures are much worse than those in 2010, when 58.3% reported that they had not received such training, 22% had received training and 20% didn’t know.
The regulations require each school/education setting to produce a written asbestos management plan that sets out how the risks are to be managed, particularly in respect of managing building work.
The Health and Safety Executive says that the plan should be written to reflect the size and complexity of the premises and the maintenance arrangements in place.
The call for submissions of evidence covers teachers, support staff, asbestos surveyors/consultants, solicitors and people directly affected by asbestos in schools. It is on the gov.uk website.
UNISON will be submitting evidence to the consultation. Further information is available from firstname.lastname@example.org.