Schools get asbestos warning

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The Independent Online

Schools are to get new guidance on dealing with asbestos today as figures reveal more than 100 teachers have died from contact with it over the past 20 years.

The Health and Safety Executive is stressing the danger of releasing asbestos fibres when a teacher pins notices or a pupil's work on a wall or ceiling. The National Union of Teachers had urged the HSE to issue guidance after one of its members was said to have died as a result of fibres being released in this way.

The figures show that 114 teachers have died as a result of coming into contact with asbestos. An additional 68 teachers have died from asbestos-related cancer, but it cannot be proved that they came into contact with the asbestos at work.

Health and safety experts were sufficiently concerned about the danger present in school buildings to update their advice. It warns schools that caretakers are most at risk from contact as they are most likely to be involved in repair work. It also warns that all staff and pupils could be placed at risk through acts of vandalism disturbing asbestos fibres.

It says teachers are unlikely to be put at risk during the normal course of their duties but warns there is a danger "if they carry out activities which cause damage [to structures containing asbestos] such as pinning or tacking work to asbestos-insulated boards ".

Blue and brown asbestos was banned from use in schools in 1985, but asbestos cement was used until 1999.

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