Figures released this month from the Department for Education has revealed that almost 700 schools and academies in England have been referred to the Health and Safety Executive over concerns that they were failing to properly manage asbestos within their buildings.
It is well known that many schools across the country are riddled with asbestos. Indeed, it is thought that approximately 90% of school buildings in England contain asbestos in some form or another.
In the 1960s, 70s and 80s asbestos was used for a variety of purposes – most commonly to lag pipes and boilers because of its fire and heat resistant properties. However, it can also frequently be found in ceiling and wall tiles in many schools.
The use of asbestos in construction is now banned across the UK. It was used widely up until 2000 and the effects of exposure to asbestos can be deadly. It is the microscopic fibres of asbestos, which are released into the air when it is disturbed that cause illness to people. The fibres are breathed, and then sit in the lungs, and can cause:
Mesothelioma – a cancer which is specifically caused by asbestos. It is incurable and causes a rapid decline in a person’s health, with agonising pain.
Asbestos related lung cancer
Asbestosis – this is when the lining of the lungs is scarred by high levels of inhalation of asbestos. It causes a shortness of breath that often means sufferers struggle to walk even a very short distance, or do even the most basic daily activities.
Pleural thickening – this is caused when the pleura (the lining of the lungs) swell. It reduces the capacity of the lungs, results in severe pain in the chest for the sufferer and also means they have a severe shortness of breath again severely limiting walking tolerance and other activities.
The widespread existence of this highly dangerous substance means that children who are simply attending school, and all of the staff inside the school who are simply going to work are being exposed to a deadly risk and are able to do nothing at all to protect themselves.
Whilst staff are commonly aware of the existence of asbestos in school buildings, they are frequently given no information at all about where in the buildings the asbestos is. This means they can do nothing to prevent them or pupils from disturbing the asbestos and causing the fibres to be released.
It is a disgrace that this government has done nothing to remove asbestos across the board in all schools despite recommendations being made by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health as long ago as 2012. Indeed, the Department for Education won’t even make available to the public information about which school buildings contain asbestos, thus depriving parents of the ability to make informed choices and protect their children.
If you have worked in a school and have subsequently been diagnosed with an asbestos related condition such as those above, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. It is important you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to discuss whether there are steps that can be taken to pursue the Department for education or your employer. Contact Farleys’ experienced personal injury team on 0845 287 0939 or send us your enquiry online.