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Asbestos in warm air cabinet heaters - a warning for schools

NAHT is today issuing a warning to members to check whether they have warm air cabinet heaters in their school that might contain asbestos fibres. This warning is essential to protect the health and safety of pupils and staff and is being issued by all the unions who are part of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) .

The warning follows asbestos fibres being found in warm air cabinet heaters in Cwmcarn High School in Wales in October 2012, which led to the school being closed since October 2012. Two separate asbestos surveyors found that asbestos fibres were being released from the school’s heaters into the classrooms.

It has been known since 1981 that asbestos fibres can be released from warm air cabinet heaters, and in 1982 the HSE issued guidance to schools to seal or preferably remove the asbestos panels from the heaters. Schools who have these types of heaters should have checks carried by professional asbestos consultants to see whether their warm air cabinet heaters contain asbestos, and if they do, how the heaters can be made safe.

The warning is specifically about warm air cabinet heaters where the cabinets were constructed on site, although other types of heaters can also contain asbestos materials and also need to be checked against guidance in the Gas Safe Register, which has a list of gas and electrical heaters known to contain asbestos. Further information to identify the heaters and on the resources available to schools to manage the risk of asbestos are provided in the attached advice document on warm air cabinet heaters.

Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, schools must maintain and regularly update an asbestos register with the location and condition of asbestos-containing materials in the school.

NAHT will continue to campaign as a member of JUC for a national audit of the extent, type and condition of asbestos in UK schools and for a risk assessment of the standards of asbestos management. Only then can the UK Government allocate proportionate resources and target those schools most at risk. JUAC’s long-term aim is the phased removal of all asbestos from UK schools and colleges, as it is estimated that over 75 per cent of Britain’s schools contain asbestos.

Page Published: 23/04/2013