The presence of asbestos in schools has long been a serious issue in the UK, and one that continues to cause huge concern for the health and welfare of our children. An estimated 75% of schools still contain the substance, and more people die from asbestos-related diseases every year than in road traffic accidents.
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines are that asbestos should remain in place unless it has been damaged or is degrading. So this leaves the onus on schools and local authorities to manage a substance known to be highly carcinogenic, in an environment where children spend much of their formative years.
Coping with asbestos in schools
Many schools have excellent systems in place to manage asbestos, but given the age and potential for degradation, this ever-changing situation requires constant vigilance. Asbestos insulating board (AIB) typically forms a major part of the fabric of older school buildings, and contains a form of asbestos most toxic to humans.
Amosite, also known as brown asbestos, was a common component of walls and ceilings, meaning children and teachers could be surrounded by asbestos during the school day. So with a widespread lack of knowledge about the dangers of asbestos exposure, and little formal training available, how can you manage asbestos in schools?
Management surveys and the asbestos register
An asbestos management survey typically involves a visual inspection of the building to identify surface level asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). The results of this inspection are recorded in an asbestos register, which is then updated periodically.
It’s possible to print out a blank asbestos register from the HSE website if you don’t already keep one, but it needs to be updated regularly to serve its purpose. Additionally, key personnel need to know where the register is located.
If the asbestos register in your school hasn’t been updated regularly, asbestos in the building may have degraded or been damaged over time. In this situation, an asbestos reinspection may be needed for an accurate view of the potential risk to health.
Asbestos in schools management plan
An asbestos management plan documents:
- Who is responsible for managing asbestos in your school
- Whether any asbestos-containing materials have been found
- If so, their current condition
- A schedule for re-checking the location and condition of ACMs
The asbestos register should be included as part of your management plan, and the necessary people informed about where asbestos-containing materials lie within the school.
Asbestos awareness training
Asbestos awareness training is key for anyone likely to disturb asbestos within older buildings. Given the widespread use of asbestos in schools, teachers and support staff could benefit from this form of training as much as maintenance staff and caretakers.
If you would like more information on managing asbestos in your school, Acorn Analytical Services can help. We offer asbestos management surveys, asbestos reinspection, and asbestos awareness training – call one of our helpful consultants to arrange a free quotation.