One of the country’s largest trade unions have called upon Barking and Dagenham Council to do more to tackle asbestos in schools.
It was recently revealed that 31 of the borough’s 61 schools are known to contain the fibres, including 24 primary, infant and junior schools.
The GMB union have asked the council for clarification on future actions required, as there is no known safe levels of exposure to asbestos.
Although welcoming the fact that the council is checking the state of the fibres in schools, John McClean, GMB national health and safety officer, admits the union are concerned about the quality of these checks.
“Now that this information is finally out in the open and parents, teachers, staff and governors know exactly which schools contain asbestos we would also be interested in the council’s long-term plans on how to deal with this deadly problem,” he said.
“Blanket claims that the asbestos is being managed properly often fail to address the nature of the environment in schools, where the presence and activity of children do not make a typical workplace and exposure to asbestos fibres can occur inadvertently.”
The Trade Union Congress (TUC) have recently adopted a proposal, supported by the GMB, calling for all asbestos to be removed from public buildings, including schools, by 2028 and then by all buildings across the UK by 2035.
The union are now hoping to meet with the council over the issue.
“GMB would like to open up a dialogue with the council on both their short and long-term approach to managing asbestos, including examining options for the phased removal of a material that is known to deteriorate over time and will need to be removed at some time in the near future,” Mr McClean added.
“In addition GMB will encourage its members in those schools where asbestos is present to sign up to their asbestos register in the event of a future claim for asbestos exposure.”
A council spokesman said a written report is kept on-site identifying the type of asbestos and exact location, and includes a risk assessment and a detailed management action plan.
He added: “Barking and Dagenham takes the safety and welfare of its children and young people very seriously and this is reflected in the way risks are managed especially in relation to the presence of asbestos in all of our buildings.”
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