HSE Issues Ceramic Gauze Asbestos Warning to Schools
HSE testing revealed two major UK suppliers have been selling gauzes to schools containing illegal levels of tremolite asbestos. There’s no easy way for schools to tell whether the heatproof gauzes, which are placed on top of tripods above Bunsen burners, contain the tremolite, so the advice is not to handle, use or move gauze mats until their certification can be checked with suppliers or a laboratory test gives them the all-clear.
The HSE says that disposal of the gauze mats does not have to be carried out by a licensed contractor, but the work should still be carried out in accordance with “Sheet EM7 etc of Asbestos Essentials”. All schools are being advised to not move mats from drawers or cupboards “then seal them with tape”. If the mats are stored in a container, they should be disposed of in that container to prevent further handling. Alternatively, they should be carefully wetted, placed in a heavy-duty polythene waste bag, placed in a second bag and labelled accordingly. CLEAPSS, the Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services, have issued detailed online guidance along with the reassurance that this represents a low health risk, as any fibres or particles from damaged mats are unlikely to become airborne.
The HSE does not consider the situation to be reportable under RIDDOR, and, if schools decide to inform parents, the guidance suggests that they should take a “reassuring” stance. When sourcing replacement mats, the HSE says that buyers should not take suppliers’ claims that mats are asbestos-free at face value, and should “seek a copy of a valid UKAS test certificate for the gauze from your supplier”.
In a follow-up press statement, the HSE report: “We are working closely with Department for Education, Education Departments in Scotland and Wales as well as the Consortium of Local Education Authorities for the Provision of Science Services (CLEAPSS). This will help us ensure that schools, colleges, local regulators and others who may have supplied or purchased similar products are directed to our advice.