Campaigners demand transparency in Cwmcarn asbestos case


Campaigners angry at “a lack of transparency” over the investigation into asbestos exposure at a South Wales school are demanding action.

The Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) has written to schools minister David Laws demanding the publication of a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report into asbestos exposure at Cwmcarn High.

Last month, schools across the UK were urged to check any warm air cabinet heaters to ensure they are not releasing asbestos fibres after it emerged that the closure of Cwmcarn in October 2012 was caused by heaters emitting amosite asbestos fibres.

In April, Caerphilly Council agreed to spend £1 million on the removal of asbestos materials from the school as it works to re-open the site later this year.

However, JUAC says confusion has been caused by HSE statements stating that “the school is essentially uncontaminated” and “it is satisfied that there are appropriate asbestos management arrangements in place”. 

Most recently, the HSE said during an evidence session at the Education Select Committee that “it is perfectly safe to reopen that school”. 

JUAC is angry at a “lack of transparency” after the HSE said it does not intend to make its report of the Cwmcarn investigation public.

The letter states “A number of public decisions and statements have been made by HSE, the Department for Education and the Minister, Mr David Laws MP, based on the HSE report of that investigation, but the HSE has now advised that they do not intend to make the report public.

“Due to the serious and controversial nature of these decisions and statements and in the interests of transparency, we are writing to you to require the publication of the HSE report of its investigation.

“It is the opinion of JUAC that the way that HSE has treated this incident has sent completely the wrong message to other schools about the standards of asbestos management that they consider to be acceptable. The HSE’s lack of transparency and the confusion that has now arisen is unacceptable.”

The HSE told SecEd last month that it does not routinely issue reports publicly on its investigations and that the recent comments to the Select Committee were “fully informed by testing carried out by the Health and Safety Laboratory and reviews of other reports and surveys”. 

A spokesperson added: “From these, conclusions could be drawn that there was no asbestos contamination in areas occupied by pupils and teachers. HSE has communicated its findings with the local authority and governors at Cwmcarn school.”

The JUAC letter also calls for an independent review of the government’s policy on asbestos in schools.


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