Asbestos is a naturally-occurring mineral fibre that was popular in building and construction due to its strength, flexibility, wide usage, lightweight, affordability and waterproof nature. However once asbestos is worn or broken, fibres can be released into the air. These fibres can be inhaled causing chronic respiratory issues like lung cancer and in some cases these lead to a premature death. So when dealing with asbestos great care needs to be taken to ensure the safety of all those involved and the health of the general public.
Asbestos was used in most commercial buildings up up the mid 1980’s, this included schools. The main use of asbestos in schools was materials for ceilings, vinyl tiles, wall boarding, ductwork for heating and cooling systems, boiler insulation and pipe wrap insulation. Though asbestos is harmless in solid form any damage to the asbestos materials releases particles of the fibres into the air which can then be inhaled, this puts both students and teachers at risk to a variety of respiratory problems including asbestosis,diffuse pleural thickening, pleural plaques, pleural effusion, rounded atelectasis and malignancies such as lung cancer. This can be highly dangerous to staff but even more dangerous to young students whose lungs are still developing. So what are we doing to minimise the risk with asbestos in schools? What are the laws regarding asbestos in schools? And what is the rate at which these issues are being resolved?
Minimising the Damage
Currently it is estimated that 1 out of 3 establishments in Australia contain asbestos, the earlier the school was constructed the more likely it is that it contains asbestos, so what is the government and our schools doing to minimise the risk of asbestos related issues and future problems? The biggest combat to asbestos in schools in Australia is mandatory testing, Asbestos Testing Adelaide, as well as a code of practice on how asbestos is dealt with in schools, mandatory testing in schools helps schools become aware if their asbestos is safe, becoming a hazard or is a hazard to the pupils and staff, with testing schools can then put preventative measures in place such as removal or encapsulation to ensure the asbestos is not being released into the air to be potentially inhaled.
What are the Laws Regarding Asbestos in Schools?
The Australian government has put into place multiple laws and guidelines regarding asbestos in schools such as the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) which requires schools to inspect the whole grounds for asbestos then do a re-inspection every 3 years, the information from these reports must be updated,maintained and available for the use of parents, teachers, and other faculty members. Licensed professionals are the only ones eligible to perform these inspections. Another way asbestos has been stopped from entering schools is the Asbestos Import Ban and the Code of Practice which gives a comprehensive list of directives on the compliance with requirements of the Work Health and Safety laws.
How Fast are Asbestos Related Issues being Addressed?
The government is currently in the process of attempting to remove asbestos from multiple schools, in Victoria alone the government has invested 155 million to the removal of asbestos from schools, they audited nearly 2000 school sites and found high risk asbestos at 497 schools1 and by early 2016 had removed all of the high risk asbestos. The next stage, they have stated, is to start removing low risk asbestos to limited future problems.
Asbestos in schools is a major health issue to both staff and students and needs to be identified and removed, Asbestos Removal Adelaide, carefully and professionally to ensure the safety of all staff and students, the best way to know if your school has an asbestos problem is to look at their last accredited AHERA report which is public knowledge and see what precautions they are implementing to ensure student and staff safety.