Hundreds of Kent schools contain asbestos and the council has paid out almost a quarter of a million pounds in exposure settlements in recent years, Kent Online has reported.
Freedom of Information (FOI) requests show nine people have claimed against Kent County Council for exposure to asbestos within a school since 2012. The council has not said what number of those are past or present school staff or students.
Two of those claims have been settled, with a combined £222,000 paid out by the authority, although the degree of responsibility accepted by the council, if at all, has not been revealed.
A total of 325 schools under the control of Kent County Council contain asbestos, according to a list supplied by the authority. A spokesman for the council said:
“The health and safety of all children and those that work in our schools is our top priority. The presence of asbestos in itself does not present a risk to health providing it is not disturbed and is maintained in a safe condition.”
The council also said it carries out regular surveys of the schools to monitor risk, and that it adheres to the relevant regulations.
A report by the Medical Research Council suggests even when a school building containing asbestos is in a good state of repair, fibre levels are between five and 500 times of those found outdoors.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which regulates and enforces asbestos regulations in the UK, says on its website:
“A large number of schools and other public buildings contain asbestos – often in the fabric of the building. Its presence alone should not cause concern provided it is managed properly.”
The full list of Kent schools that contain asbestos features schools from across the county, and includes them from every borough and district.
The list also shows when each school was last inspected for asbestos. It includes schools built after 2000, although manufacture and supply of all asbestos was banned by the end of 1999.
But a council spokesman said:
“No schools were built in Kent after 2000 which contained any asbestos although, in some cases, ‘new builds’ can refer to extensions to existing buildings on the same site or they may have been constructed on existing brownfield sites.”
Cllr Trevor Bond, of the Dover district, raised the issue of asbestos in council operated buildings in a policy cabinet committee meeting in May. He was told by council officers that trying to remove asbestos from schools too quickly may do “more harm than good”. He said;
“Kent County Council has a very robust plan compared to others. But I did ask if there is a long term plan to look at a how we could possibly remove it.”
But he said council officers had assured him safety checks had been done.
Kent County Council’s statement in full:
“The health and safety of all children and those that work in our schools is our top priority. The presence of asbestos in itself does not present a risk to health providing it is not disturbed and is maintained in a safe condition.
The council has a robust Asbestos Management Policy and System in place, which includes regular surveys of all premises, so it is known where asbestos risk is present and its location in all KCC buildings including schools.
The process of managing asbestos in schools is governed through strict controls, checks and training set by KCC in accordance with current HSE legislation and regulations in order to protect all site users including staff, pupils, contractors and visitors.
No schools were built in Kent after 2000 which contained any asbestos although, in some cases, “new builds” can refer to extensions to existing buildings on the same site or they may have been constructed on existing brownfield sites.
KCC maintains an asbestos register for all its buildings, which it requires to be available for all contractors who visit the site.
These reports are also available centrally on KCC’s property database in PDF format.”