Further detail of suspected asbestos exposure at Sydney school

Further detail of suspected asbestos exposure at Sydney school

As the parliamentary enquiry into the asbestos at Castle Hill High School continues, it has been heard in court that teachers unknowingly tasked students with cleaning a storeroom that contained asbestos. 

The claims have come to light during the inquiry, which has also revealed that independent asbestos assessors hired by the NSW Education Department were told that a long-term casual teacher at the school had died from mesothelioma.

Another teacher further revealed that the staff were “subject to testing” following a “cluster of cancer patients” were revealed. 

Between 2008 and 2014, 76 instances of asbestos fibres were reported at the school. Staff at the school allegedly feared for their jobs for raising concerns about the safety at the school. 

Paperwork during the inquiry has shown that staff requested risk assessments for members of the teaching staff who had been working at the school for 15 years, with an independent assessor telling staff they “don’t know where (the asbestos) came from, or how long it has been there”.

“We can provide a risk assessment, but we cannot say exactly,” the assessor told concerned teachers. “We are unable to say exactly what the risk is. 

“All we can do is provide air monitoring and advice —. our previous risk assessment was that the risk was low, but it is very hard to say, we don’t know how long people were in the storeroom and we don’t know how high the asbestos exposure was.”

An NSW Education Department spokesman told NewsLocal: “we take our responsibilities around asbestos management seriously”.

“Following all the relevant clearance certificates being provided by an independent hygienist, we’re confident there are no current asbestos issues at the school,” the spokesman said. 

“The Department has also investigated the actions of the staff at Castle Hill High School in relation to their failure to act on reports between 2016 and 2020, and appropriate action has been taken.”

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