Voice: the union for education professionals has commented on the Supreme Court judgement that Dianne Willmore had been negligently exposed to asbestos by Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council when she was a pupil at school.
This case has profound implications as it is the first case of a pupil being exposed to asbestos at school that has been fought successfully through the courts. General Secretary Philip Parkin said: "This case highlights that everyone on school premises needs protection against the dangers of disturbed asbestos. The circumstances demonstrated how easily general pupil behaviour can disturb asbestos that is not properly managed."
More than 75% of schools in the country contain asbestos, with most containing the more dangerous types. A Medical Research Council report stated: "It is not unreasonable to assume, therefore, that the entire school population has been exposed to asbestos in school buildings."
In the last ten years more than 140 school teachers died of mesothelioma, and teaching assistants, caretakers, cleaners, school secretaries and nursery nurses have also died from exposure to asbestos. If school staff are being exposed to asbestos, then so are the children in their classes. However, because of the long latency there are no records of the number of children who have subsequently died.
Philip Parkin said: "Many schools staff are not aware of the dangers of asbestos; they do not know where it is and are not involved in its management.
"Urgent action is required to improve standards of asbestos management, and to create an action plan for asbestos in schools, including: audits, risk assessments, relevant training and guidance, and for all asbestos to be identified and removed in a phased programme when schools are refurbished."
Dianne Willmore died aged 49 of the asbestos cancer mesothelioma on 15 October 2009, the day after she heard that the Appeal Court had upheld the High Court judgement.
For further information on the asbestos campaign and Voice's survey, see www.voicetheunion.org.uk.
Contacts: Voice Press Office (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01332 372337 or 0794 871 0413, Solicitor David Brierley (email@example.com) on 01332 372337, General Secretary Philip Parkin (firstname.lastname@example.org) on 01332 372 337 or 077 259 601 32.
Asbestos in Schools Group (AiS) spokesman Michael Lees, tel: 01409 241496, mob: 0791 0947362,
Voice: the union for education professionals
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Derby DE1 1BT
Tel : 01332 372337 web : www.voicetheunion.org.uk