Update: Since this article was published a number of additional sites including schools and parkland have been closed as result of bonded asbestos.
On the 11th February, 2024, the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) confirmed that asbestos was present in mulch on the campus of Liverpool West Public School.
The EPA prioritised testing at the public primary school after it was determined that mulch on the site came from the same source as other sites that contained asbestos. Subsequently, one sample at the school tested positive for bonded asbestos.
What does this mean for the school?
Asbestos is a harmful substance, and its swift management is important for ensuring the safety of the community.
On the day that the asbestos was discovered, NSW EPA Chief Executive Tony Chappel announced that the EPA would put protective measures in place, saying “We are supporting the school and the Department of Education to urgently secure the site and ensure the contaminated mulch is cleaned up and replaced.”
In addition to the efforts of the EPA to secure and manage the site, the school will enact remote learning on Monday the 12th and Tuesday the 13th of February to protect students from potential exposure.
Who is responsible for this?
According to Asbestos Software Specialist Sebastian Tiller, “there is a possibility the school isn't at fault and it was the supplier that wasn't checking where their materials come from… it just goes back to the importance of asbestos management and controls in educational settings.”
His comments highlight the reality that; despite best efforts, external factors beyond the immediate control of educational institutions can pose significant risks.
What can we learn from this incident?
The discovery of asbestos at Liverpool West Public School reiterates the point that asbestos management is an important and ongoing process. Because asbestos can come from external sites, it’s important to implement measures that both manage asbestos, but also prevent asbestos-related issues.
This is where asbestos management software proves important. It helps track materials, ensures compliance, and alerts users to potential hazards. By enabling proactive risk assessment and management planning, the software prioritises prevention over reaction, ultimately reducing the risk of asbestos-related incidents.
You can find out more about software that can prevent/manage asbestos problems here. If you have concerns about mulch you have recently received, please contact the EPA Environment Line on 131 555 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.