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Craig Evans, general manager of UKATA

Asbestos danger after fire

Council pressure could expose pupils at a Birmingham school to asbestos cancer risk warns the UK Asbestos Training Association

Posted by Dave Higgitt | November 14, 2014 | Security & safety

The decision of a Birmingham headteacher to keep her school closed, despite growing pressure from the city council to reopen, has been backed by The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA). Yardley School in Tyseley was contaminated by asbestos following a nearby fire at an industrial estate, and despite asbestos removal specialists still being on site, Birmingham City Council have advised the school to reopen.

“Yardley School’s decision to remain closed whilst the asbestos released from a recent nearby fire is cleared is certainly the correct one,” said Craig Evans, general manager of UKATA. “Every parent has an expectation when they send their child to school that they will be safe. However, with pictures posted by the school’s head this week revealing that work is still underway to decontaminate the site, student welfare simply cannot be guaranteed.”

Following the council’s advice that the school should reopen, headteacher Rose Hughes reacted by posting pictures and a statement on the school’s website that clearly showed environmental services contractors still removing the substance from the site. Asbestos is still the biggest workplace killer in the UK, causing diseases such as mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer which affects the victim later in life for which there is no cure.

When undisturbed asbestos is usually harmless; however, the danger occurs when asbestos dust become airborne when disturbed and is subsequently inhaled. The dangerous nature of asbestos means that those removing it must have received the correct training from a UKATA-approved training supplier and have all the relevant certification to back up their training.

“The removal of the asbestos at Yardley School is currently being dealt with by experts and until they give the green light, the pupils should not return,” said Craig. “Safe removal by trained professionals is essential for public health and whilst both parents and the council are understandably anxious that children are missing out on their education, their safety cannot and should not be compromised. The risk from asbestos must never be underestimated.”

Asbestos was used heavily in building materials prior to the fatal effects of “the hidden killer” being fully appreciated and, as a result, much asbestos still remains in many homes and buildings throughout the country.

“Asbestos is still out there in many buildings; however, most of the time, when the building is structurally sound it can cause no harm,” explained Craig. “However, in this case, a nearby building containing asbestos burnt down and smoke is the perfect vehicle for spreading asbestos dust. Any remaining asbestos could severely damage the health of the 975 pupils of Yardley School and we would always advise people to err on the side of caution where asbestos is concerned.”

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