Asbestos is present in 86 per cent of schools. Since 1980, there have been 319 teacher deaths from mesothelioma (a cancer caused by asbestos fibres); on average 17 teachers now die every year from mesothelioma, compared to 3 per year in 1980. It is estimated that up to 300 people a year die as adults, due to their exposure at school as pupils. Not all head teachers and governors are fully aware of the risks which could be within their own building, or the steps they can take to reduce the risk to their staff and pupils.
The Union claims that deaths of teachers over the age of 75 are not included in the statistics, nor are the number of deaths of support staff recorded – meaning that the number of deaths from mesothelioma is likely to be significantly underestimated. According to the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance, there is a very long latency period associated with mesothelioma. This latency period can last anywhere from 10 – 50 years after exposure to asbestos. It is therefore likely that this cancer claims victims older than 75 years of age.
TUC: HSE’s review shows ‘shocking complacency’.
The TUC claims that a recent HSE review of the Control of Asbestos 2012 Regulations showed ‘shocking complacency’. The union claims that every time the review mentions the 5,500 deaths a year, it emphasises that these were as a result of past exposures and does not acknowledge the millions of workers who continue to be at risk from ‘hidden asbestos’ in workplaces such as schools. The TUC also criticises the HSE review for failing to consider the impact of improving the controls or the effect on the death rate if employers were required to remove asbestos from the premises.
TUC head of health and safety Hugh Robertson said:
‘the fact that Government and regulators see the status quo as the best option is a damning indictment of our health and safety system’.
NAHT is supporting a national conference, Asbestos in schools: revealing the hidden killer, on Tuesday 4 July 2017 at the Hillscourt Conference Centre in Birmingham.
The conference will enable delegates to:
- Find out more about the hidden dangers and the long term risks to health that asbestos poses to pupils and school staff
- understand the steps to take to manage asbestos.
More details, and how to book can be found here.
Readers can also visit the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance for more information on asbestos and mesothelioma.