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Thomson Ltd offers schools an asbestos management overhaul for £1000

21 Mar 12 Environmental engineering company Thomson Ltd is launching a special offer today to schools in England to help them deal with asbestos safely and meet Health and Safety Executive guidelines.

Yorkshire-based Thomson Ltd has provided asbestos-related services for over 35 years. The specialist is offering an on-site expert assessment of each school's current asbestos procedures and documentation plus the installation of its own iStar Asbestos Management software for a nominal cost of just £1000 (ex VAT).

The Department of Education estimates that more than 75% of UK schools contain asbestos and Thomson's initiative comes after MPs described the situation as a "national scandal" in February. The all-party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health called for a scheme to remove the potentially lethal material, for better information for parents, teachers and staff, and for more asbestos management inspections.

This followed a report by the Asbestos in Schools pressure group in October highlighting the deaths of 140 teachers from the rare asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma in the past 10 years. Children are more vulnerable. Research suggests that for every death of a teacher from asbestos-related diseases, nine children could die.

Thomson Ltd chairman Richard Thomson is forthright when it comes to the subject of asbestos. He describes the substance as a plague on his own generation of workers in the engineering and construction industries. Prompted by the latest round of the long-running controversy surrounding asbestos in Britain's schools, he decided to act.

Thomson says: "The key to this crisis is an up-to-date risk register that's available to all interested parties and good planning. After ten years of using iStar Asbestos Management for clients like Leeds City Council, London Waste and Bradford University, we thought it would be a good time to put our money where our mouths were and offer some practical help to schools."

A survey of 16 schools in 2010 by the Asbestos Training and Consultancy Association (ATAC) found none was meeting health and safety rules on managing the substance. In response to the MPs' report on asbestos in schools in February, ATAC said it could provide "literally hundreds" of examples each year where effective management controls had either broken down or were not present at all.

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Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, affected schools should maintain an asbestos risk register plus an asbestos plan that sets out in detail how the risks from asbestos-containing materials will be managed. Dutyholders have to provide accurate information to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb asbestos on its location and condition. Thomson Ltd's iStar Asbestos Management software performs all these roles so that schools can be confident that they comply with HSE regulations.

There can be confusion as to who is responsible as asbestos dutyholder for a school. For many, it is the local authority. However, when budgets for building management have been delegated to the school by their local authority, both parties have dutyholder responsibilities. For academies, free schools, voluntary-aided and foundation schools, the school governors are the asbestos dutyholders.

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC), the national asbestos trade union campaign group, is currently fighting government proposals to place the full responsibility on school governors in all state-funded schools. For independent schools, it can be the proprietor, governors or trustees.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that inhaling asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK at around 4,000 each year. In Thomson Ltd's experience, many organisations are not following strict HSE guidelines. There may be little knowledge of the responsibilities of the organisation's asbestos dutyholder or even who the dutyholder is. This is just as common in the public sector as it is in the private sector.

Thomson Ltd's offer of an asbestos management overhaul for £1000 (ex VAT) is open to all primary schools and secondary schools in England.

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