29 Nov 2022
At OHSS, we regularly bring you blogs like this one that highlight the dangers of asbestos that still remain despite the material being banned in construction in the late 1990s. Today, we're here with a worrying discovery made about schools in Northern Ireland after a question was raised in the Irish assembly by SDLP member Colin McGrath.
The question related to the number of schools that have been identified as containing asbestos, with the released answers showing that the vast majority do. Out of a total of 1,100 schools, 975 of them are said to contain asbestos.
Strict Asbestos Management Processes in Place
The truth is that asbestos can still be found in many of the public buildings in Ireland, including hospitals and schools that were built or refurbished during the 2nd half of the 20th century. As such, the Education Authority (EA) stated that there were "strict processes in place for asbestos management" at all the named locations.
The reason why this asbestos is deemed to be safe and 'managed' by the Health & Safety Executive NI (HSENI) is that its presence alone should not be a source of concern. In order to cause harm, asbestos must be disturbed, and airborne fibres released and inhaled.
Almost All Sites Contain Chrysotile Asbestos
In their own words, the guidance states that "Asbestos only becomes a health risk when it is released into the air and breathed in". Of the 975 identified schools, almost all contain chrysotile, with many others containing the amosite. When inhaled, these fibres are strongly linked to mesothelioma and other cancers.
Speaking on the matter to BBC News NI, an EA spokesperson had this to say:
"We appreciate the emotive nature of this subject matter but wish to reassure both pupils and parents that the health and wellbeing of our children and young people, staff and the wider school community remains our highest priority. We invest over £1m annually on the identification, management, remediation or removal of asbestos."
Protecting People From the Dangers of Asbestos
The dangers of asbestos are as prevalent as they ever were, with this latest news story showing just how many public buildings still contain it. As such, there's still much work to do in our quest to protect people in the workplace, and our two decades in the industry provide our clients with all the knowledge and expertise required.
If you'd like to know more about us and our full range of asbestos abatement and occupational hygiene services, visit us today at www.ohss.ie or give us a call on 01 6905907 to speak to a member of our expert team.