The former principal at a Thornbury, Victoria, Australia primary school was asked to resign after an investigation revealed that several students were exposed to asbestos during a renovation.
According to reports, former principal Chris Sexton was negligent in his responsibilities of handling asbestos at the Wales Street Primary School. The incident happened in February, after two of the school’s preparatory classes risked asbestos exposure from dust in the classroom’s carpeting.
The regional director of the school, Janette Nagorcka, stated that although Sexton was asked to resign for failing to meet his duties to inspect and properly report hazards, he is now looking into a career in a new department at the school district.
“Chris has been a hard-working and popular principal of Wales Street Primary for the past seven years,” said Nagorcka.
In addition, a petition was signed by over 500 people in support of the principal. However, given the circumstances, the school council feels they made the right decision as several teachers and 39 students were exposed to asbestos.
Per the investigation, an asbestos audit should have been done well before school renovations began. In addition, the school’s risk management plan, as well as the its asbestos register, was reportedly out of date.
“In our opinion the school should not have allowed this classroom to be used once potential concerns were raised,” the investigation form states.
Meredith Peace, president of the Australian Education Union, told local reporters that the decision to have Sexton resign was difficult, as principals aren’t equipped to handle all of the growing asbestos concerns.
“We remain very concerned that a significant responsibility such as asbestos is left up to school principals to manage. Asbestos is an incredibly dangerous substance and requires significant expertise which our principals don’t have. While they continue to be expected to do this we will continue to get incidents like this occurring,” Peace said.
Asbestos Awareness in Australia
In the meantime, the school council is spreading awareness regarding asbestos issues and looking into how to handle future problems before they arise.
Australia and the United States both have high incidences of asbestos-related illnesses and deaths. According to Safe Work Australia, there were 661 cases of mesothelioma in Australia, in 2008 alone. In 2007, over 500 people died in Australia from malignant mesothelioma. The American Cancer Society reports that in the United States, around 3,000 new cases of malignant mesothelioma are reported on an annual basis.
Keep in mind that if you or a loved one have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages, medical costs, pain, suffering, and much more. Contact our leading mesothelioma law firm for additional details and for a free case consultation.
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