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With Christmas fast approaching, the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) has issued a warning to people about the hidden danger of putting up Christmas decorations in school.
The JUAC unions are requesting that teachers and school staff take extreme care when putting up their Christmas decorations, children’s artwork and other materials are safety attached to walls and ceilings, ie that they are not using pins or staples.
This is because the walls and ceilings may contain asbestos, and if pins or staples are used to attach decorations then this will result in deadly asbestos fibers being released into the atmosphere.
Once these fibers are inhaled into the lungs there is a real danger that the person could develop a fatal lung disease such as mesothelioma in the future.
The worrying thing is that almost 90 per cent of our schools still contain asbestos.
Children especially are at high risk because asbestos diseases such as mesothelioma have such a long latency period before any symptoms develop.
The Department for Education (DFE) advises the public that ‘Putting drawing pins into walls as part of displays can release asbestos fibers. This activity should not be taking place in schools where asbestos is known to be present.’
But this isn’t just a problem at Christmas, as there is a risk all year round. Plus staff may come and go, they tend to forget if not reminded, so school staff need to be consistently made aware of the hidden dangers.
A big problem is that a lot of school staff aren’t actually aware that their school contains asbestos, and if they are aware of its existence, they don’t know where exactly it’s located.
Most schools built before the year 2000 are highly likely to contain asbestos, so we must presume it is present until proven otherwise.
The advice given to schools by JUAC about Christmas decorations in school is:-
If you would like any further information, then please visit http://www.juac.org.uk/
JUAC has also partnered with Modern Governor to produce a free online learning module about asbestos in schools. https://www.moderngovernor.com/access-asbestos-schools-e-learning-module/.
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Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their properties, carrying out an asbestos survey in their building so as not to put employees at risk.
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