Managing Asbestos in your School

Asbestos in your school can put staff, pupils and visitors at risk

The majority of school buildings contain asbestos. Asbestos is a naturally-occurring fibrous mineral which was incorporated into a wide variety of materials that became part of buildings or items in the UK up to the year 2000.

If managed carefully, the presence of asbestos in your school will not pose a risk to your staff and pupils. However, poor management of asbestos could endanger lives. If materials containing asbestos are disturbed or damaged, asbestos fibres can be released into the air and breathed in by staff and children. This puts them at risk of contracting a number of serious diseases in later life, including mesothelioma and lung cancer.

The relative risks of asbestos exposure in a school setting and the question of whether children are intrinsically at greater risk than adults, are not fully understood. However, the Department of Health’s Committee on Carcinogenicity concluded that, due to their increased life expectancy compared to adults and the long latency period for the disease to develop, children have an increased lifetime risk of developing mesothelioma if exposed to a given dose of asbestos.

The activities most likely to lead to the disturbance of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in schools are building and maintenance work. However, ACMs can also be disturbed through vandalism, accidental damage and boisterous behavior.

Main points

Your school buildings may contain asbestos if any part of them was built before 2000. It is extremely important that any asbestos present in your school is managed properly. If you do not follow the steps set out in this advice, you may put the future health of your staff and pupils at risk. Duty holders could also face prosecution, by failing to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

You should take the following steps to manage the asbestos in your school:

  1. Have a ‘management survey’ of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in your school
  2. Assess the risks associated with ACMs in your school
  3. Devise a plan for managing asbestos in your school
  4. Make sure staff, visitors and contractors know the risks and precautions they need to take
  5. Keep the management of asbestos in your school under review

If you need to undertake any refurbishment work in a building that contains asbestos, you will need to commission a refurbishment and demolition survey which will give you a more detailed understanding of the asbestos present in the building.

If there is an incident of asbestos exposure at your school you should take the necessary steps to ensure that everyone is safe and, unless the incident is very minor, you will need to report it to the Health and Safety Executive.

What to do if things go wrong

If something goes wrong and you find that there has been, or may have been an unplanned disturbance of asbestos in the school you should:

  • Stop any activity in the affected area immediately
  • Remove everyone from the affected area
  • Ensure that staff and pupils are not able to access the area and do not remove any items including equipment, books, or personal possessions from the area
  • Get advice from an asbestos expert regarding any necessary remedial action
  • Prevent access to the area until any necessary remedial action has been taken

Unless the incident is very minor, notify the HSE. This is a legal requirement under the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 2013 (RIDDOR).

Contractors carrying out work in the school should have procedures in place to deal with an unintended or unexpected release of asbestos. You should be advised of any such release, so that appropriate measures, including those set out above, can be taken as necessary.

People who have been exposed to asbestos are understandably anxious about the possible effects on their health. Make sure that staff, pupils, or their parents they are given relevant information to understand the risks. If they are still concerned about their exposure, they should consult their GP.

Your school’s asbestos management plan should detail the procedures for staff to follow in the event of an asbestos incident, and you must communicate this clearly to all staff.

Get Started with Casa Environmental Services

Here at Casa Environmental Services, we specialise in providing UKAS accredited asbestos surveying and analytical services throughout the UK. If you suspect your school contains asbestos, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with a member of our team today. We have all the knowledge, equipment and expertise needed to not only identify asbestos, but also safely manage it, whether that be through encapsulation, removal or decontamination.

Contact us today to get started or to find out more >

See more: What is an Asbestos Management Plan?

See more: Cheltenham College – Case Study

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