The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) welcomes the news from the Australian Government that it will set up a new office of asbestos safety. Workplace Relations Minister, Bill Shorten, announced that the government would work to “ultimately remove asbestos from the Australian built environment.”
He agreed in principle that removal of asbestos from schools will be prioritised, adding that “Obviously, exposure to children is particularly repugnant, but there is no good exposure for any group”.
The announcement follows a two year review that recommended that the location and condition of asbestos in government and commercial properties should be identified, and that there should be a staged removal of the asbestos by 2030.
The news from Australia comes shortly after a study by the West Australian Institute for Medical Research revealed that children in the mining town of Wittenoon who had been exposed to asbestos were developing cancer and dying sooner than the general population.
JUAC awaits the findings of the UK Committee on Carcinogenicity who have been asked to consider the relative vulnerability of children to asbestos.
Asbestos is in more than the 75% of UK schools, but, in contrast to Australia, the UK Government’s policy is to manage asbestos for the remaining life of school buildings rather than remove it. Although the incidence of the asbestos related disease mesothelioma is significantly greater in Britain than Australia, the UK Government have also specifically excluded asbestos from the audit of the condition of school buildings.
It is not good enough for the UK Government to say it relies on schools to have robust processes in place to contain and monitor the asbestos in our schools. The UK Government claims to be working hard with HSE to make sure asbestos is managed properly by schools and yet amid cuts to HSE funding the decision has been made that the HSE will no longer proactively inspect UK schools.
JUAC continues to campaign for a national audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in UK schools and for a risk assessment of the standards of asbestos management. Only then can the UK Government allocate proportionate resources and target those schools most at risk. The long term aim is the phased removal of all asbestos from UK schools.
JUAC urges the UK Government to action to make UK schools safe from the dangers of asbestos.
Voice: the union for education professionals supports the above press release issued by the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC).
JUAC is a trade union campaigning committee comprising the six main education unions: Association of School and College Leaders; Association of Teachers and Lecturers; National Association of Head Teachers; NASUWT; National Union of Teachers; Voice; plus the education sections of Unite, UNISON, UCATT and the GMB: www.juac.org.uk. The Group has the objective of making all UK schools and colleges safe from the dangers of asbestos. All the unions in JUAC are members of the Asbestos in Schools (AIS) campaign.
AIS is a campaigning and pressure non-party political group of organisations and individuals with an interest in making schools safe from the dangers of asbestos. The aim of the AiS is to make United Kingdom schools safe from the dangers of asbestos both for staff and pupils: www.asbestosexposureschools.co.uk.
Asbestos in Schools: the need for action: http://www.jimsheridanmp.org.uk/asbestosinschoolsreport.pdf
Solicitor David Brierley
Tel: 01332 372 337
Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC):
JUAC Chair Julie Winn:
Mobile: 07736 490357
Web: Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) website
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