The government and its safety watchdog have 'misplaced' confidence in the ability of schools to safety manage asbestos, teaching union NUT has said. The union was commented after a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) online survey and follow up inspection programme found 'the majority of local authorities in England with 'system build' schools have procedures and precautions in place to manage asbestos safely.' HSE said the initiative, carried out in conjunction with the Department for Education (DfE), found that out of the 152 councils in England that have responsibility for providing education, it was 'satisfied' from their online assurances that 110 have systems in place to meet their duties under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. The other 42 authorities were visited by HSE inspectors to ensure that they were also managing the risks from asbestos. Of the authorities inspected, ten - 24 per cent - received a total of 18 enforcement notices, including one prohibition notice. NUT general secretary Christine Blower welcomed the publication of the survey findings, but warned HSE's confidence in the findings was 'misplaced.' She said: 'Apart from the fact that the survey was restricted to asbestos management in system built schools, the NUT questions how it can be claimed that the majority of local authorities meet legal requirements in terms of asbestos management when only 42 were actually visited by HSE inspectors. The other 110 simply completed an on-line survey, making the survey essentially a paper exercise, reliant on local authorities admitting to failings in their system of asbestos management in order to trigger a visit from the HSE.' She added: 'We fear also that the findings of this limited survey will be used to justify the abolition of a recently-established DfE steering group which was set up with the aim of improving asbestos management in schools.' Michael Lees of the Asbestos in Schools campaign said 'the questionnaire cannot claim to be definitive as, unsurprisingly, few authorities responded 'no' when asked if they are complying with the law. Evidence shows such confidence is often misplaced.'
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