Dismay at ‘watch and
Asbestos in our schools: SPECIAL REPORT
POTENTIALLY deadly asbestos has been left in 10 WA schools for up to a year after it was found.
Four of the schools – Mt Pleasant, East Fremantle and Millen Primary School in East Victoria Park and Point Peron Camp School – still contain the material.
Visual inspections carried out in May and June 2015 identified asbestoscontaining material with a risk ranking of one or two at nine of the schools.
A cable pit and electrical board at Point Peron Camp School was assessed as risk ranking one in November.
The control measure for risk ranking one or two material in the Education Department’s Asbestos Management Plan reads: “Remove source of disturbance or otherwise take immediate action to negate any potential health risk”.
Opposition education spokeswoman Sue Ellery said the State Government had failed in its duty of care.
“If I was the parent of a child at one of these schools I would be demanding to know how the priorities of the Government have become so skewed that it thinks it is acceptable to leave children exposed to high-risk asbestos for such a long period of time,” she said.
“I accept that the work is best done during school holidays but that does not explain why the remedial work was not carried out in the first school holidays following the reinspections.
“The Government needs to explain its reasoning to parents and identify to what extent children have been exposed to risk.”
Education Department infrastructure executive director John Fischer said that following the initial visual inspection, the nature and location of the material had been further assessed to ensure it did not pose any immediate danger to students and staff.
He said areas of high concern were dealt with swiftly.
“It is important to note that asbestos in its current undisturbed form is not a risk to students and staff,” he said.
“The asbestos present in most pre1980 buildings would not pose a health risk unless fibres are disrupted, which is why works are usually scheduled during school holidays.”
He said the Department of Finance’s Building Management Works had advised that most of the asbestos was out of reach – in the roof eaves, electrical cable pit, in the ceiling and inside floor tiles – and the chance of it being disturbed was minimal.
“Timing for removing asbestos materials in schools is assessed on a caseby-case basis and the safest approach for removing materials is always followed,” Mr Fischer said.
“Remedial work has been completed at eight of the schools, further testing is being undertaken at one school and