Art Teacher ‘Died After Working In Classroom With Asbestos For 17 Years’

Inquest Rules Death Was A Result Of Industrial Disease


Specialist asbestos lawyers have said reports that a former teacher who died from lung cancer in 2014 may have come into contact with asbestos in the classroom where she taught are just the latest to put a spotlight on the presence of the material in public buildings.
Jennifer Barnett, 60, passed away last September, 14 months after she was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Her death was ruled to be a result of industrial disease.
An art teacher at Archway School in Stroud between 1980 and 1997, Mrs Barnett would often hang students' paintings on walls containing asbestos.
However, her husband Nigel told an earlier inquest into her death that she had also worked extensively with asbestos while working on a farm in her 20s, which could mean the school and council are not solely responsible.
Asbestos was widely used as a building material in the UK between 1950 and 1999, and is present in many schools across the country. Asbestos-containing materials do not pose a risk unless they are disturbed.
Mr Barnett, said:  "I am hoping former teachers or ex-pupils will come forward who may have some knowledge about the asbestos ceiling tiles at Archway School or know of any other asbestos products or materials that were used there."
Phil Ashbee-Dobbins, Gloucestershire County Council's asbestos administration officer, said: "Archway School has been extensively renovated in recent years. In addition, regular asbestos audits are completed as part of standard health and safety procedures.

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Expert Opinion
The issue of asbestos in schools has really come into the spotlight in recent months and awareness of the material’s presence in such buildings, as well as hospitals and other public sites, has grown significantly.

"This case is yet another to show the terrible consequences that asbestos exposure has on so many lives and this is why we strongly believe there remains a need for decisive action to tackle the presence of the material in many buildings.

"The Government recently published its review of asbestos management in schools, but we feel that the steps included do not go far enough to keep teachers, support staff and pupils safe from harm.

"Our asbestos team is contacted more and more by those who have come into contact with asbestos in schools and estimates suggest this is likely to continue to rise in the coming years."
Isabelle Selley, Associate