The warning comes in the wake of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealing that two UK laboratory supply companies have been supplying schools with gauze mats that may contain asbestos containing materials since as far back as 1976.
The HSE has confirmed that they have stopped all supplies from the two affected sources, ensuring that new products are stopped before they get to the market
Whilst the risk of asbestos exposure from the use of these mats is 'extremely low', schools should take immediate action.
First, the school's current stock of mats should not be used or handled pending a review of the issue. Schools should check with their supplier whether the gauzes provided are asbestos-free and seek a valid test certificate of the products confirming this. For any supplies originating from outside the EU, a laboratory accredited by the UK Accreditation Service will be able to provide suppliers with a test certificate for the gauze.
Provided you receive appropriate evidence that this is the case and are satisfied that the mats have not been stored with affected products, normal use can resume. However, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, all current stocks of the mats should be assumed to contain asbestos and should be safely disposed of.
Any containers in which these have been stored should also be correctly disposed of in line with relevant guidance. Any other equipment that has been stored with the affected products should be wiped clean, and the cloth treated as contaminated waste.
Any waste generated by the school will need be classified as hazardous waste and transported and disposed of by licensed professionals. The HSE have issued guidance on the best practices for disposal of these mats. Further information on this can be found here.