Today marks the start of Global Asbestos Awareness Week.
Between now and April 7, charities and organisations around the world will be working hard to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos which remains the globe’s biggest workplace killer.
In the UK, the use of asbestos was banned more than two decades ago but because the material was used so heavily by our construction industry throughout the 20th century it is still present in huge numbers of buildings across the country, including workplaces, homes, garages, schools, hospitals and other public buildings.
Tragically, as a result people continue to be exposed to asbestos every day in the UK and around 5,000 people die from asbestos-related diseases here each year.
What is Acorn doing to mark Global Asbestos Awareness Week?
Throughout this week we will be raising awareness about asbestos and where people can go for help to manage it safely across our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn platforms.
During Global Asbestos Awareness Week, we are also starting work on a project to create a lasting memorial to the hundreds of UK teachers who have died as a result of exposure to asbestos.
We have embarked on this project as part of our wider Asbestos in Schools awareness campaign which we launched last year on World Teachers’ Day to highlight the dangers teachers and children are facing from asbestos in UK schools.
Why are teachers and children at risk from asbestos in schools?
Asbestos was widely used in school buildings between the 1940s and 1980s and regularly used in construction in the UK up until 1999 when it was banned. This is why the presence of asbestos in educational buildings built prior to 2000 remains high.
More than 80 per cent of UK schools still contain asbestos and according to the National Education Union more than 200 teachers have died from the asbestos-related disease mesothelioma in the past 20 years.
Tragically, it’s well documented that teachers and pupils have an increased risk of contracting mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos fibres in schools. In fact, the risk to teachers is three to five times that for other workplaces.
One of the reasons why people in schools are more vulnerable to asbestos if it is present is because children are playful and often move in groups. It’s therefore not uncommon for school buildings to be damaged and this can lead to the harmful asbestos fibres being released into the air.
Children are at an even greater risk from asbestos because their lungs and respiratory systems are still developing. Their lungs are smaller and they breathe at a faster rate meaning they can inhale more asbestos fibres with every breath.
If they have come into contact with asbestos particles they are also more like to accidentally ingest fibres through sticking their fingers in their mouths. Ingested asbestos fibres can cause mesothelioma in the tummy which is called peritoneal mesothelioma.
Meanwhile, our teachers are losing their lives from acts as simple as pinning up work on noticeboards because they are unaware that they contain asbestos.
How can you help raise awareness about asbestos in schools?
It is important that all headteachers – or indeed anyone who is responsible for managing a public or commercial building – know where asbestos is in their buildings and what state it is in.
They must also keep up-to-date asbestos records to ensure anyone working at the school also knows about the presence of asbestos.
If you don’t know where your asbestos is, and you don’t know what state it is in, you are not going to be able to manage it properly. As a result, you could end up putting people’s lives at risk and you could be prosecuted for failing to comply with the law.
However, whilst headteachers and contractors have legal duties when it comes to asbestos, in reality lots of us have a part to play in protecting staff and children from the dangers of asbestos in schools.
If you have a connection with any school – whether you work at a school, are a governor, or have a child or grandchild at a school – start asking questions.
If that school was built before 2000 there is every chance that it contains asbestos. So, find out if your school has an up-to-date asbestos register.
If they don’t, let them know that our team at Acorn can help them. We are a fully independent and impartial company so they can be confident that the recommendations they receive from us will always be in their best interests.
Alternatively, perhaps you could help us in our bid to pay tribute to teachers who have lost their lives because of asbestos by supporting us our efforts to creating a lasting online memorial to them.
We want this memorial to ensure those teachers we have lost won’t be forgotten and we also hope their stories will encourage people to be more proactive when it comes to tackling asbestos in schools with which they have links.
Families of former teachers who have died as a result of asbestos are invited to submit a short biography and a photograph of their loved one for the memorial which is expected to go live later this year.
To contribute to the memorial project email email@example.com
Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveys, asbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us