Verdict Into Death Of Teacher Finds 'Industrial Disease' To Blame

Industrial disease death

24.10.2006

An inquest into the death of a former Head Teacher yesterday found that he had died from Industrial disease as a consequence of asbestos exposure during his employment at a school in Carlisle.

Mr John James White (known as Ian) died from the asbestos related condition of mesothelioma on the 25th December 2005 aged 65. The Coroner Mr David Osborne, H M Coroner for North East Cumbria, yesterday (23 October 2006) raised concerns regarding asbestos in Cumbria's school buildings whilst delivering his verdict.

Mr White began his distinguished teaching career in September 1960, In 1982 Mr White became Head Teacher at St Cuthberts Roman Catholic School in Botcherby, Carlisle. It is believed that Mr Whites exposure to asbestos was during his time at the school.

Mr White had involved himself with the maintenance of the school and partook in painting and the upkeep of the schools classrooms with the caretakers. It was in these circumstances that he may have come into contact with asbestos dust and fibres.

Mr White had also informed his wife that concerns about asbestos ceiling tiles and even asbestos dust blowing in the school yard had been voiced by his colleagues.

Mr Whites widow Eileen age 66 said Ian was a dedicated teacher, committed to health and safety of his pupils and staff. Ian had checked if there was asbestos in the school and had been reassured by the Local Education Authority that the school was safe.

However today's verdict now calls that into question. Ian would be the first person to call for safe removal of asbestos if it proved to be a health hazard. The public must be reassured that the proper health and safety checks will be made to protect, children and families from risk in the future.

We would like to thank everyone who has offered us their support, good wishes and condolences in what has been a very difficult time. We would now ask that we are allowed privacy necessary to come to terms with our personal loss.

Industrial disease increased

Neil Wilkinson of law firm Irwin Mitchell, who represents Mrs White said Sadly the number of school teachers diagnosed with the condition mesothelioma has increased over recent years. Asbestos was commonly used as fireproofing and as an insulation material in schools up until the mid 1970s and much of this material remains in place. If not properly maintained or disturbed then asbestos can be highly dangerous. The danger is not immediate but can, in a limited but significant number of individuals, cause mesothelioma 10 to 50 years thereafter.

Although the majority of educational institutions do keep records of asbestos in buildings in accordance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations it is paramount that the whereabouts of such asbestos is also communicated to all staff members so as to avoid the accidental disturbance of asbestos in circumstances similar to those which ultimately led to Mr White's death.