Asbestos: 'Better Protection' Needed After College Cleaner Dies From Exposure
The death of a cleaner, who died from lung cancer after being exposed to asbestos at the college she worked, has prompted calls for better protection for school staff.
A tribunal ruled on Tuesday that Brenda Waddell’s death in September was caused by exposure to the deadly substance while she cleaned classrooms at Grimsby College, Lincolnshire.
The 61-year-old was diagnosed with the lung disease mesothelioma in February. She had worked at the college since 1984.
Before her death, Waddell wrote a statement saying she believed that she was exposed to the substance, which appeared in a local paper.
"I have been informed that in the early years there was a removal programme from the boiler house. I was not able to walk down the nearby corridor but I believe me and the other cleaners would have still been exposed to it.
"I have also been informed that Mr Ken Lord, from Laceby Road, died from mesothelioma after working there as a contractor.
"He was also aware of the process of removal of asbestos at the college, which was mainly the ground floor, for which I was responsible for cleaning the classrooms, toilets and corridors."
She added that there were six huts she had been told contained asbestos and had "regularly cleaned" them.
"I remember they were very cold in the winter. I understand the fabrications of these buildings was asbestos.
"We were never warned of the dangers of asbestos exposure and I can only remember one removal programme, although I gather there may have been others."
Waddell was employed by Grimsby Council and contracted out to the college.
Recording a verdict of industrial-related death, district coroner Paul Kelly said mesothelioma was "nearly always associated with exposure to asbestos" and Waddell's case was "no different".
"Between 1984 and 2007 in various occasions while working as a cleaner at Grimsby College she was exposed to asbestos that led to the disease causing her death.
"It is on this basic, primary fact that I am satisfied Mrs Waddell died as a result of an industrial-related disease."
A spokesperson from the Grimsby Institute Group said they were "saddened" to hear of Waddell's death.
"The Grimsby Institute has not been involved in the inquest but we naturally take these matters very seriously and our students, parents, carers and staff can be assured that the Institute has all necessary policies and processes in place for the management of asbestos across our campuses."
The University and College Union (UCU) is now calling for better protection from asbestos for staff employed at education institutions.
General secretary Sally Hunt said "around 5,000 people a year" die because of asbestos-related diseases.
"The health of staff and students must be a priority for institutions.
"Employers must take their legal duties more seriously and carry out the necessary safety checks. It is really important that
institutions consult and work with trade unions to develop plans for safely managing asbestos levels."
It was also revealed this week that Lincoln University was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay £12,000 to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for not adequately dealing with asbestos on its campus.