Sunday, 8 June 2014

Asbestos labelling unfair

I recently had a conversation with an assistant principal,of a large state school who told me that they had refused to display warning stickers about asbestos in her school. I was amazed that they had done that and annoyed with myself for allowing it to happen at Glen Park. ( refer to a previous post) I have since learned that they will have to display the stickers now. I flippantly discussed with her creating a sticker to put up with it explaining that our asbestos is safe and well managed. The existing sticker May as we'll say ' warning this school is toxic. 'Go down the road to the safe private school' That would be the impression you would get because private school don't have to display the stickers.

So far 318 state schools have been audited and labelled this year. There is genuine concern that parents might mistakenly believe only state school buildings contained asbestos. 

Schools found to contain the substance must post signs saying WARNING in big bold print at their entrances saying an ''induction'' must be completed before any workis done on the school site.

The buildings that have asbestos must have warning signs.

The Oakleigh Primary School principal  said the signs left a poor impression on parents of prospective students visiting for the first time. ''The first thing they see is a warning that there's asbestos,'' he said.

Mr Fisher said principals were well trained in managing the substance safely. ''It's not anything that our parent community needs to be concerned about. We manage it with all tradespeople that come into the school.'' I have known of the presence of asbestos in the eaves of our old classroom since 1998. We have had 2 other inspections since the original one showing that the asbestos is safe and not dangerous and since 1998 I have been able to tell any tradesmen working at our school of its presence. No work has been done on the eaves other than to paint them twice since 1997. they will be due for painting again in 2018!

An Education Department spokesman said the number of asbestos audits had ''significantly increased''. ''These warning labels are an important measure in ensuring that all members of the school community … are part of the safety culture of the school.'' which is 'over the top' but in our Occupational health and safety conscious world it is understandable. it would have been better and more accurate for the stickers to say that the asbestos was 'managed' which it is. It would also be fair If ALL schools had to post these stickers.

Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Frank Sal said the non-government school sector, pre-schools and universities should be required to meet the same standards as state schools.

''This has already caused significant angst in some circumstances as people become concerned about health and safety,'' he said.

A Victorian WorkCover Authority spokeswoman said all workplaces had legal responsibilities to manage asbestos. ''If the asbestos is in good condition and left undisturbed, it is usually safer to leave it fixed or installed and review its condition over time,'' she said. This is a no-brainier and does not address the unfairness of the system of labelling asbestos.

Opposition education spokesman James Merlino said direct cuts to education by the Napthine government had delayed asbestos removal in schools. Safety is not the issue with these stickers, other than poor wording I have no problem with them. 'Truth in labelling' and 'what is good for one should be good for all' are  the issues and as usual the Education Minister Martin Dixon seems to be avoiding the question. I will look at designing that 'clarification' sticker next term.

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