There has been some focus of late with regard to asbestos in schools causing Mesothelioma; the fatal asbestos related illness.
The Asbestos in Schools (AiS) campaign group is seeking help from Personal Injury Solicitors amid fears that the Department for Education is considering scaling back its work in this area. The AiS has a steering group that regularly meets with the Department for Education and which consists of Union representatives, local authorities, governors and asbestos experts all of whom monitor the issue of asbestos in schools. There is some concern about the future of that steering group.
It is disappointment, then, to read of the death and Inquest of a “passionate teacher” Marion Potts who contracted and died from mesothelioma in June 2013. This 63 year old lady is one of more than 140 UK teachers to die from Mesothelioma in the past decade, emphasising the need for the steering group to continue.
Her Inquest was reported in the national press. The Coroners verdict was ‘death from industrial disease’. In giving his verdict the Coroner in Southampton suggested that the only place Mrs Potts could have been exposed to asbestos was at her workplace – the school – where she had pinned up displays of the children’s work onto classroom walls with drawing pins. The Coroner called for all necessary steps to be taken to ensure the elimination of asbestos in schools.
It is important that we do not lose sight of the fact that asbestos is a huge problem in schools. Only last year, an all party Parliamentary group warned that 75% of schools nationwide exposed children and staff to asbestos. Although usually associated with workplaces such as dockyards or power stations, we need to remember that asbestos was widely used in the UK generally as a building material until 1985 when the use of most types of asbestos was banned. It was only banned completely from new buildings in 1999. Schools are known to have had asbestos within the fabric of their buildings.
The Inquest verdict may assist the family of Mrs Potts in seeking Asbestos Compensation for her illness and her death, but this is of course dependent upon the Local Authority accepting liability for exposing Mrs Potts to asbestos in her work.
In some cases, employers cannot be traced, and this adds an additional complication to those seeking compensation. Today we additionally await with interest details of a Government backed scheme that will apparently make available a £350 million package for Mesothelioma victims who have hitherto been unable to claim compensation when no insurer or employer exists.
If you wish to read more information about asbestos in schools please see the website asbestosexposureschools.co.uk. Website founder Michael Lees, whose wife Gina was a nursery school teacher before she died of Mesothelioma at the age of 51, has been campaigning in the 12 years ever since. His campaign group needs our support so that the Department for Education does not lose sight of the devastating effect of exposure amongst teachers where ultimately death is too often the tragic outcome, as with the late Mrs Potts.