At the beginning of this school term the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) began a series of inspections to see how schools are managing the risks from asbestos.
Why the HSE has begun inspecting schools for asbestos exposure
In July 2022 the HSE had acknowledged for the first time that people who work in schools are at higher risk from asbestos than nurses, shop workers and factory workers. The HSE recognises that people can be exposed to asbestos in all of these occupations, so this was a significant admission.
It followed a Department of Education Survey in 2019 which found that around four in every five schools still contain asbestos. One in five were not managing it in line with government guidance.
School staff face higher than average exposure to asbestos
The HSE accepts that people who work in schools have a higher-than-average incidence of asbestos-related disease. This makes it all the more surprising that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has recently begun challenging claims from former teachers and school support staff that they were exposed to asbestos at work.
The DWP is failing to recognise the risk to school workers
It suggests that staff at the DWP are being inadequately trained. This follows recent cost-cutting measures which changed the way that claims for Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) are handled. Challenging their mistakes delays the payment of benefits and compensation to people who are terminally ill. Sometimes they have only days or weeks to live.
School children face even more risk
School pupils are at even higher risk from asbestos than the adults who work with them. This is because their lungs are more susceptible to it. However, they cannot claim IIBD. It is only paid to people who have been exposed to asbestos while at work.
More on this story here.