Teachers exposed to asbestos

A Tweed Heads Public School teacher was exposed to asbestos for two weeks after classroom renovations. Photo: John Gass
A Tweed Heads Public School teacher was exposed to asbestos for two weeks after classroom renovations. Photo: John Gass

TEACHERS at two Tweed shire schools have been exposed to potentially lethal asbestos.

Renovations at Tweed Heads Public School and deteriorating flooring at Murwillumbah High School exposed teachers to asbestos materials, but a Department of Education spokesman has assured parents no students were put at risk.

An incident report obtained by the Tweed Daily News through Freedom of Information revealed the installation of a smart board in a Tweed Heads Public School classroom on May 5 last year required drilling into a chrysotile asbestos wall.

“(The) employee was using a classroom for a period of two weeks and was exposed to asbestos, low level that came out of a ripped wall” the report read.

“The wall was left for two weeks to be fixed.”

A Department of Education spokesman said he could not discuss the employee's medical circumstances, but added “no medical matters have been reported to the school and tests showed there had been no significant risk to any staff or students”.

“The room was not used by students between the report of asbestos and appropriate remediation,” the spokesman said.

Meanwhile, an incident report revealed a Murwillumbah High School teacher was exposed to asbestos material in vinyl floor tiles for eight months. “The employee reports since the second half of November 2009 the floor tiles have been breaking in the classroom and she has to handle and remove the broken tiles,” it read.

“In July 2010 the builder advised the employee there is asbestos in the tiles.

“The employee cannot remember a precise date when she first had contact with the broken tiles.”

A Department of Education spokesman again maintained “Murwillumbah High School students were not exposed to any risk from the tiles”.

“The tiles were safely removed prior to the refurbishment of the room,” he said.

Both the New South Wales Education Minister Adrian Piccolo and Opposition education spokes- woman Carmel Tubbut declined to comment when contacted yesterday.

Information obtained by the Tweed Daily News under the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009 (GIPA Act) revealed 32 asbestos-related reports at schools from January 2009, including three reports into the same incident at Tweed Heads Public School.

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