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HSE rubbishes Daily Mirror claims of asbestos report cover up

3 December 2010

Re: Daily Mirror article - "Come clean on asbestos in classroom" - 3 December 2010

It is wrong to claim that HSE is refusing to release a report on asbestos in the classroom. An incomplete report on health and safety leadership in schools is being worked on, but - as we have already said - it doesn't look at arrangements for managing asbestos. The draft does not even include the word 'asbestos', and nor was it ever intended to. We've already published a report on asbestos in schools earlier this year, which confirmed that the majority of education authorities were managing asbestos in their schools, in accordance with the regulations, and highlighted the enforcement action taken against those authorities where improvements needed to be made.

Our guidance on managing asbestos is based on science, and dealing with risks in a sensible and proportionate way. That's why we have been clear that asbestos which is in good condition and unlikely to be damaged is not a significant risk to health and is better left in place and managed. Asbestos which is in poor condition, or which is likely to be damaged or disturbed, should be sealed, enclosed or removed.

There is no evidence to show that rates of asbestos-related cancer among teachers are significantly higher than the population as a whole. A recent research study commissioned jointly by Cancer Research UK and HSE which looked at the full range of jobs individuals did during their working lives - rather than just the last job - reinforces the view that teachers do not stand out as a high risk group. It is tradesmen who remain at the greatest risk.

Rosalind Roberts
Head of the Public Services Sector
Health and Safety Executive

Updated 2012-01-13