Asbestos Discovery In Two Northern Primary Schools Highlights ‘Urgent Need’ For Removal Programme

Lawyer Calls For  'Serious Commitment' To Tackle Asbestos Problem In Schools

12.03.2012

Legal experts representing victims and the families of those whose lives have been affected by asbestos-related disease have reiterated calls for the presence of the deadly material in schools across the UK to be urgently tackled after asbestos was found in primary schools in Rotherham and Hartlepool last week.

Reports in the media claim asbestos in Hartlepool was discovered in an internal wall encased between wood, plasterboard and tiles at St Peter's Elwick Church of England Primary whilst improvement work was underway, leading to a temporary closure of the 51-year-old building.

The asbestos found in Rotherham at Whiston Junior and Infant school was reportedly discovered on Thursday as work was carried out to prepare for a refurbishment planned for the Easter holidays. Rotherham Council has said the school will remain closed while the asbestos is cleared.

Head of the asbestos disease team at leading law firm Irwin Mitchell, Adrian Budgen, said the temporary closures once again highlights concerns about the presence of asbestos in schools. The issue recently hit the headlines when a report by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health estimated asbestos is present in more than 75 per cent of the country’s schools.

Adrian said: “Only last month we welcomed recommendations that a scheme be launched to remove asbestos under safe conditions and proposals that parents, teachers and staff are given regular updates about asbestos in their schools to raise awareness of the dangers it can pose, and that regular inspections related to the management of asbestos should also be undertaken.

“The discovery of asbestos in both a Hartlepool and Rotherham primary school last week must have been extremely distressing for parents, staff, pupils and to those who were carrying out the work who discovered the asbestos and again highlights the urgent need for a national asbestos removal programme to be rolled out in schools throughout the UK.”

He adds: “Last year, a Supreme Court ruling in the cases of Sienkiewicz v Greif and Willmore v Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council was a major step towards the proper acknowledgment of the risks that even low-level exposure to asbestos can pose in non-industrial settings.

“However, we are still waiting for a serious commitment to be made to tackle the asbestos problem in our schools as, without such resolve, there is a clear risk that people of all ages –particularly young children who are most susceptible – will continue to be exposed with potentially devastating consequences.

“A systematic plan to safely remove asbestos in schools is not such a tall order bearing in mind the inherent dangers, while the parliamentary group’s suggestion of regular updates on the presence and management of the substance will keep school users informed and fully aware of the risks.”

Adrian added that the estimate that more than 140 teachers have died from mesothelioma in the past ten years should be more than enough proof that urgent action is needed.

He said: “Mesothelioma is an extremely aggressive cancer and it causes a great deal of suffering to those affected by it. It sadly remains incurable and stubbornly resistant to treatment. Asbestos is still the biggest occupational killer of all time.

“For decades the risks of asbestos were largely ignored by most employers, putting very many people in danger and leading to a lot of unnecessary deaths. Now, with all information in the public domain about the dangers of asbestos, there is no excuse for failing to protect people from such an obvious hazard.”

If you or a loved one has been suffered due to an asbestos related illness, our specialist asbestos claims team can help you to claim compensation. See our Asbestos-Related Disease Claims Guide for more information.