Health and Safety Matters - asbestos, mental health, medicines
Schools have recently been reminded by the Local Authority that they have a duty to inform all their staff about the presence of asbestos in their buildings and to give basic asbestos awareness training.
It's extremely important that any asbestos that is in the building is not disturbed by ANY members of staff within the school, including the premises officers. Two of the most common ways of damaging asbestos are by sticking pins in boards to put up posters or moving ceiling tiles.
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Asbestos should be labelled wherever possible with a small warning sign. A sign may not be present in some places because the asbestos may be concealed, e.g. under a carpet, or it may simply not stick. In any case members of staff should be told of its presence and this information must be included in the induction given to new staff.
An asbestos register must be kept by law which must be available for inspection at all times. Contractors coming into the building to carry out work should be shown the register, even if the work that they're doing is not expected to disturb the asbestos.
Most asbestos has been removed from Leicester schools unless it is considered to be in a place where it is not going to be disturbed. In some cases it may be encapsulated - painted with a special coating to prevent the release of asbestos fibres. This does not always work well, particularly in the case of asbestos ceiling tiles or boards that may be found under windows. The asbestos is only sealed on the exposed side so if there are gaps between the boards air, that may potentially carry asbestos fibres, can circulate through from the unsealed side into the room.
An extreme case of this was found recently at a Leicester school. The Local Authority has agreed with us that this is not satisfactory and work is being done to seal the gaps. The question is that, if the asbestos is unsatisfactory in one school, is the situation repeated in other schools? Schools have a duty to monitor and manage asbestos, but sometimes problems are missed or opinions about what is safe differ.
It is in everyone's interest for all members of staff in a school to keep an eye on the condition of asbestos. Questions to ask yourself:
• Have you been told where the asbestos is in your school?
• Is any asbestos in a place where it could be accidentally disturbed?
• Does any of the asbestos look in poor condition? If it's encapulated, are there gaps around the edges that air can get through?
If you are concerned about asbestos in your school approach your school managers. If you are not happy with their response get in touch with the NUT.
The Mental Health Foundation (www.mentalhealth.org.uk) has recently produced a very useful booklet entitled How to Talk to Your GP About Your Mental Health. This is free to download:
One of the hardest things to do is to admit that you have a problem with your mental health. Most people with a concern think that it's just them and they may tell themselves that they ought to 'pull themselves together', even if no one else does. Mental health problems are far more common than most people realise. Thirty percent of GP appointments are related to mental health and well-being issues. One in four people will experience some form of mental health problem over the course of the year. It is much easier to deal with these problems if they are tackled at an early stage. If you are concerned about your own mental health, or someone else's, reading this booklet is to be recommended.
Administration of Medicines
Any reference to which members of staff should give medicines to children or carry out other similar tasks is to be removed from LCC H&S policy documents. Members are reminded that it is not the job of a teacher to carry out such tasks or to administer first aid. A teacher may understandably wish to inform themselves about the medical conditions that affect their students but even if they volunteer to be trained this does not place any obligation on them.