7 December 2017

Warning for schools not to put up Christmas decorations

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) who represent nine teaching and support worker unions, has issued new guidance to remind schools of their responsibilities concerning asbestos ahead of the festive period.

Guidance issued by the Department of Education reminds staff that pressing staples or pins into walls containing asbestos,  could result in the release of harmful fibres. If breathed in, the fibres can cause asbestos-related diseases, such as mesothelioma, an aggressive form of lung cancer, which may not present until many years later due to the long latency period.

Nearly 90% of schools in the UK still contain asbestos and children are known to be particularly vulnerable because of the long latency of asbestos-related diseases.

School staff should ensure that christmas decorations, children’s artwork and other materials are safely attached to walls or ceilings and are not attached to surfaces containing asbestos using pins or staples.

JUAC advice to school staff is:

  • If you do not know already whether your school contains asbestos, ask your head teacher if it does and if so where it is located.
  • If there is asbestos in the walls or ceilings of classrooms, corridors, halls or anywhere else accessible to pupils and staff, do not pierce the area with any pins or staples. Find other ways to display decorations or artwork. If you cannot find out, you must assume that asbestos is present until you receive confirmation that it is not.
  • Check that this message is reflected in your school’s asbestos management plan and ask for staff to be given termly reminders about it.

Sally Cuff, Service Delivery Manager, said “Around half of school staff say they don’t know whether their school buildings contain asbestos, and this is a major concern with nearly 90 per cent of schools still containing the material. This message needs to be repeated regularly – not just at Christmas – due to staff turnover and because messages can be forgotten over time.”

Further information

Asbestos Management in Schools

Asbestos in Vintage Decorations