Health & Safety Matters - Forty Education Workers Die Because of Work!
The most recent statistics released by the HSE show that 40 education workers died from the asbestos related disease Mesothelioma in 2016. This is an increase of 33% since 2015. In total 363 school teaching professionals have died of mesothelioma since 1980, and 249 of those have died since 2001, a shocking increase that doesn't even include the deaths of many support staff or people who die over the age of 74.
If you work in a school built between 1945 and 1990, there is a very good chance that it contains asbestos somewhere in its structure. Most of the accessible asbestos has been removed from Leicester schools but support columns and areas around window frames are still likely to contain some. A particular problem with columns is that, where they enter the roof space, their ends may have exposed asbestos which can release microscopic fibres into the ceiling void. These can build up and be released into rooms below if the ceiling tiles become disturbed, something that can happen accidentally or when work is carried out.
The law says that employees must be told if the building they work in contains asbestos and where it is located. If the asbestos is accessible then it should be clearly labelled. Leicester City Council requires schools to monitor the condition of asbestos and send quarterly reports to confirm that it is in good condition. There should also be an asbestos management plan available for inspection by anybody on request.
If you work in such a school and have not been told about asbestos, please ask. If you have any concerns about the condition of asbestos report it. If you know that work has been done in an area that contains asbestos, ask if there is any chance it has been disturbed.
Your life, and those of the children you teach, may depend on it.
The HSE has been busy.
In 2017/18 600,000 working days were lost due to ill health caused by work-related stress, anxiety or depression, 57% of all time lost. Approximately 2% of education workers took time off because of work-related stress - the highest of any sector.
Despite the cost of this and the damage caused to education, many schools still make little or no attempt to reduce stress. In a recent document the HSE states,
Employers have a legal duty to protect employees from stress at work by doing a risk assessment and acting on it.
If your school is failing in its responsibilities regarding stress management, contact the union office so we can advise you about the best way to take action.