HSE updates asbestos awareness strategy

HSE updates asbestos awareness strategy

As a government report finds that a fifth of schools are not ‘fully compliant’ with correct asbestos procedures, the Health and Safety Executive has changed its approach to dealing with the problem, aiming to raise awareness of the substance and its dangers.

The government report found that around a million children were at risk of exposure to asbestos in schools, with 100 schools being a ‘significant cause for concern’.

At an enquiry on the state of school buildings this month, MPs heard the shocking revelation that school pupils had to be dusted down in a fumigation van after possible asbestos exposure at a school in Sunderland.

More than £6 billion is required to bring schools up to a satisfactory standard, and a further £7 billion to bring them up to a good standard.

The HSE, in the meantime, has rebranded its Asbestos Liaison Group as the Asbestos Leadership Group (ALG), inviting wider participation with the aim of reaching a broader audience.

Where the group has previously been focused on the “technical aspects of asbestos removal in a licensed environment”, the aim now is to widen the group to look at all aspects of where workers are exposed to asbestos.

Ian Strudley, head of the health unit in the HSE’s construction division and chair of the group, explained:

“We wanted to involve some of the people our campaigns are addressed at, such as carpenters, electricians and plumbers.  We hope to get the right members, who are in a representative role, so that the messages cascade back through their associations.”

He added: “The answer might not be another guidance document, but thinking about how we convey the message and bringing in some initiatives around that. For instance, how do we get the message to younger people, in schools and colleges, so that they’re aware they might come across asbestos.”

Asbestos causes 5000 deaths a year in the UK and is present in many buildings constructed prior to 2000.

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