Asbestos excuses slammed

IN THE aftermath of the asbestos debacle at Warwick West State School at the start of the year, Department of Education and Training (DET) has stuck by the actions of the school authorities, despite admissions parents were not informed within the timeframes outlined in policy guidelines.

The school authorities have come under fire for not alerting parents to the mishandling of asbestos by contractor Redline Project Management, despite policy guidelines requiring them to do so within 24 hours.

Acting assistant director-general of Infrastructure Services Vince White said although the principal was made aware of a “suspected incident” during the school holidays, parents were not notified until several days into the school term.

He said the delay was due to resources being focussed on “flood-related issues”.

“As the principal believed the incident had been resolved prior to recommencement of school, flood-related issues took priority,” he said.

“Parents were notified of the asbestos-related incident via letter sent home on the third school day, January 27.”

A whistleblower at the centre of the incident has said the excuse of flood issues taking priority was “ludicrous” and said students and staff had been placed at risk as a result.

He said the school was told by two licensed removalists the students were put in danger by the actions of the contractor but said his concerns were ignored.

“They can say what they like and pass the buck but the bottom line is they ignored the advice from two competent people to close the school,” he said.

“There would have been thousands and thousands of asbestos fibres released – at least – and it only takes one to kill.”

Another source claims the father of a student was brushed off by school authorities when questioning the school on the danger of the situation.

“They told him to pull his head in and go away,” he said.

“If he hadn’t gone in and kicked up a stink, we’d never have known about it.”

DET last week released findings of a report into the incident compiled by independent expert John Gaskin.

Education Minister Cameron Dick said the report found the incident occurred as a result of failure of the contractor Redline Project Management to comply with policy, not a failure of policy.

He said there was no excuse for contractors not carrying out work to DET’s high standards.

Mr White yesterday conceded communication with the school community could have been managed “more effectively” and admitted the principal had been made aware of an incident prior to school recommencing.

“The principal of the school has been reminded of the importance of prompt communication in relation to asbestos incidents,” Mr White said.

“He was guided by advice from the project manager, Workplace Health and Safety officers and departmental staff,” he said.

Mr White said the principal notified the appropriate departmental staff and said steps had been taken to heighten awareness of the importance in managing asbestos incidents in the future.

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