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Your Guide to Asbestos Management in Schools

The dangers of asbestos have been highlighted by our previous articles numerous times, but it’s worth highlighting the possible dangers posed in schools by poor or ineffective asbestos management. Here you can find everything you need to know, from legalities to case studies.

 

Importance of School Safety

In 2014, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated an incident which resulted in a building contractors being prosecuted for safety breaches.

Three years earlier, Woldingham Girls’ School, an independent school in Caterham, enlisted the help of a building contractor to carry out a refurbishment to remodel the school’s dining and kitchen area. Buxton Building Contractors Ltd had requested a specialist survey to check if there was any asbestos in the undercroft part of the building, however when the results came back positive they did not take any action.

Scaffolding
Image source: Flickr – Theen Moy

No safeguards had been put in place, and no mention of the discovered asbestos was heard. This resulted in many different contractors being exposed to the asbestos within the area, and only after one worker raised the alarm after he broke through the ceiling and exposed the asbestos insulation boarding, was any action taken.

 

Who is Responsible?

Those who have a responsibility for the maintenance and repair of a school is known as the ‘duty holder’ (defined in Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012). For the majority of schools this will be the employer.

Teacher

Image source: Flickr

The duty holder, therefore, is the local authority for community schools, community special schools, voluntary-controlled schools, maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units. For academies, free schools, voluntary-aided and foundation schools, the school governors are the duty holders. For independent schools, it may be the proprietor, governors or trustees.

 

If you are a duty holder, you can download this printable checklist to ensure you are following the correct asbestos management procedures.

 

What Should You Do?

Health and safety legislation states that schools are not required to inform parents if asbestos is found in their children’s school. However, some schools do present information to assure that effective management is in place and that procedures are being followed. If management arrangements fail and there is a release of asbestos fibres, it is important that parents are informed.

Swing

Image source: Flickr – Donnie Ray

Asbestos can be monitored by visual inspection carried out by professionals who can determine if any damage has been done to the school. If there is no visual damage, the risk of asbestos is extremely low but duty holders are responsible for organising regular inspections. Checks to make sure materials that have been put in place to protect or seal asbestos containing materials are not damaged are also necessary, and remedial action on these materials will be needed if damage is found.

If you are looking for a professional company to conduct an asbestos check on your school, visit our asbestos surveying page for all the information you will need.

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