NUT calls for UK-wide audit of school asbestos risk

Asbestos in schools

Asbestos in schools

Asbestos fibres still lingering in the UK’s school buildings are killing as many as 300 ex-pupils and 15 teachers every year, according to what the Daily Mirror has described as a “shock report”. Indeed, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has echoed the calls of the newspaper’s Asbestos Timebomb Campaign for a countrywide audit to assess the current asbestos risk in schools.

As it was ruled by an inquest that a Gloucestershire mum and art teacher’s recent death was attributable to an industrial disease resulting from her exposure to asbestos at work, NUT general secretary Christine Blower commented: “There has to be a proper audit to determine the scale of the problem. The dangers of asbestos in schools are obvious. What is needed to truly address the problem is a concerted effort on a national scale.”

Blower urged political parties to “actively engage with a problem which is very far from being addressed and has taken many lives”, in another development highlighting the continuing relevance of asbestos awareness training for the UK’s educational establishments. The NUT has said that asbestos remains present in nine in every 10 schools, a survey suggesting that despite this, 44% of teachers had not been made aware whether this was the case for their own workplace.

Even of those teachers who knew that their school was home to asbestos, a mere 15% had been shown a copy of the management plan for tackling the problem. Even more concerning, in a world that might have hoped that asbestos awareness training was no longer necessary, were the claims of one in three teachers that they knew of an incident at their establishment that might have led to asbestos exposure.

Painswick mother-of-four Jennifer (Jen) Barnett died five months’ ago, aged 60, following her diagnosis with the extremely aggressive cancer of the lung lining, mesothelioma, which is strongly associated with the breathing in of asbestos dust. She taught at Archway School – where she was known as Miss Shonk – from 1980 to 1997, and her family believe that asbestos contact occurred there when she pinned up work by her pupils onto the ceilings and walls.

Such deaths are rightly only increasing the sense of urgency among many to do everything that they can to prevent further tragedies relating to asbestos, which was only completely banned from new buildings in 1999. Get in touch with Trident Surveying now about how our comprehensive asbestos awareness training can help to minimise the risk to your own employees and contractors.

Compensation payout for former marine engineer

Asbetsos Awareness Training

Compensation payout for former marine engineer exposed to asbestos

As easy as it can be to imagine that the need for asbestos awareness training is a thing of the past, new stories are continually emerging that demonstrate its contemporary importance to be greater than ever. One such case is that of a former marine engineer from Wardley, Gateshead, who has won a legal bid for compensation after being diagnosed with the aggressive asbestos-related cancer, mesothelioma.

The dad-of-three, Colin Thorn’s diagnosis with the incurable cancer of the lung lining came in December 2013, and follows a long career at the Ministry of Defence, which has admitted responsibility for the 59-year old being exposed to asbestos while he worked. He was subjected to the fibres as he repaired pipework on various vessels and during cleaning procedures on board nuclear submarines during his 1971-1995 spell with the MoD.

Thorn described himself and his wife, Deborah, as having been “knocked for six” by the diagnosis, particularly as it had resulted from him simply going to work and doing his job. He said that the breathlessness that he now experienced rendered him unable to work and prevented him from going out as much as he used to. He admitted to being “extremely concerned” about what the future held for him and his wife as his condition worsened.

He also expressed extreme anger at not having been given the equipment that would prevented his inhalation of asbestos during his work onboard Royal Navy vessels. He also signified his delight at receiving the settlement from the MoD, stating that he would use it to fund the care that he will require with the deterioration of his condition, and to improve the financial security of his wife.

Not only was Thorn not offered any form of breathing mask or respiratory equipment for his work, he told his lawyers, but there were also no measures in place to prevent asbestos dust spreading. Such words will certainly strike a chord with those who might not have previously realised the continued vital role played by asbestos awareness training in today’s organisations.

The news of Thorn’s compensation award comes as a nurse has been appointed in the North East to deal specifically with mesothelioma victims. People who have received a diagnosis for the life-threatening respiratory disease in Northumberland and North Tyneside will be able to receive support from Leah Taylor, who will also work with other regional teams to ensure better access to support groups, information and treatments.

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