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Survey raises schools asbestos fear

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Fears about asbestos in schools have been raised after a survey uncovered “worrying shortcomings” in management of the substance.

A study by a trade union campaign group found “disparities” between official reports on how asbestos is monitored and dealt with, and the experience of health and safety officials on the ground.

The survey of 600 staff by the Joint Union Asbestos Campaign showed that a third were aware that an asbestos register was kept and only one in five said it was shown to contractors before they started any work.

More than two-thirds of safety reps said they had not been consulted on the issue of asbestos management and most had not been given asbestos awareness training, or could not remember if they had.

Only one in four said the presence of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) was clearly marked.

Julie Winn, chairman of the campaign group, said: “It is worrying that such a large gap exists when it comes to marking the presence of asbestos.

“The recognisable symbol can be discreetly placed on the ACM, alerting a contractor to the presence of asbestos and helping to protect staff and the student body.

“The teaching profession routinely has a fluid turnover of staff, and without clearly marking ACMs, new staff will be unaware of the presence of asbestos.”

Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: “Lack of consultation with safety reps and lack of training for staff are two major areas of concern.

“There is no room for complacency. We are ready to work with schools and local authorities in any way we can to improve standards of asbestos management in schools.”

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