How schools can take the digital approach to asbestos management
Andrew Paten, co-founder of UKNAR - UK National Asbestos Register, talks about how schools can take the digital approach to improve the management of asbestos, which is estimated to be in 80 per cent of UK schools
This summer many school buildings will be undergoing internal adaptations to modify the space available for social distancing. Across the UK, maintenance teams, visiting contractors and teachers will be carrying out a variety of minor works to equip school buildings for a ‘new normal’ and a safe return to the classroom; whether installing new wash basins and sanitation areas or putting up new health and safety signage. In addition, recent government announcements of increased funding for school means new refurbishments and repairs will be planned.
Concerns over increased asbestos disturbances
This increased activity poses a great concern as there is also a significantly increased likelihood of accidental and potentially fatal asbestos disturbances while carrying out minor works, building maintenance and repairs.
Andrew Paten comments: “It is absolutely vital that contractors and teachers get to see where asbestos may be located so that they don’t disturb it when carrying out their duties or minor works. This critical information is contained in the school asbestos register but actually getting this information into the hands of those that need to see it, when they need to see every time and without fail is not always simple. Reports suggest over 50% of school teachers and one third of contractors have never seen the asbestos register for the place where they work. This is despite this being an absolutely key dutyholder responsibility for them to see this information if they may be at risk of endangering themselves or others. Electronic copies do not always reach the individual contractor visiting site and paper copies are not always easily accessible (nor currently desirable). Covid only makes this harder.”
Safer Asbestos Management in Schools is a Key Priority
UKNAR is proposing that now is the right time to make safer asbestos management in schools a key priority and help dutyholders protect everyone in schools where asbestos is known to be present.
Andrew Paten, Co-Founder, UKNAR, comments: “Our vision is to make critical asbestos information instantly visible to those that need to see it, when they need it. Like Covid, it is an invisible killer. Schools are currently undergoing lots of modifications in order to social distance for the safe return of pupils and staff. Yet, even the smallest maintenance job in school could easily dislodge asbestos, causing potentially fatal exposure.”
Andrew Paten continues: “ We are providing schools with a very simple and cost effective means to help manage asbestos more safely whilst giving trustees, head teachers and their dutyholders improved line of sight and reassurance that they are fulfilling their legal and moral responsibilities to protect staff, pupils and site visitors.”
“Asbestos in schools is a persistent and present danger. It is hidden and has been largely forgotten. And with the huge costs of removal the problem isn’t going away quickly. Not enough has been done to address this but modern technology i.e. the Smartphone can help us all. I truly believe now is the time to take a smarter digital approach as a modern tool to better address a longstanding problem. There is no pleasant way to say it – asbestos in schools causes lung cancer and asbestos kills and exposures continue to happen.
“While COVID-19 is prevalent, we are aware that talking about asbestos in schools could be unwelcome, but we want to prevent hundreds of future lives being unnecessarily lost in the future. It is clear Government intervention won’t come quickly and something can be done right now at negligible cost per school if enough schools, academy trust and LEA’s engage. We have a solution that is paperless, contactless and efficient. We believe it really will save time, money and lives.”
Read the full article in Education Business
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