Management of Asbestos in Schools: A Comprehensive Analysis

Management of asbestos in schools

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has been a significant concern in the UK, especially in schools. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently conducted a study on the management of asbestos in schools, and the findings were quite revealing. However, it’s essential to note that the study only examined 421 schools out of the 32,163 schools across the UK, representing a mere 1.3% of the total. This percentage is quite small to draw a general indication of conditions across a variety of schools.

The Department for Education (DfE), the Scottish and Welsh governments provided HSE with lists of schools known to have buildings containing Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs). This approach raises questions about the randomness of the study as the schools were not randomly selected but were working from a provided list of schools.

The HSE Report on Management of asbestos in school buildings 2022/23

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) report on asbestos management in school buildings for the year 2022/23 is a comprehensive document that outlines the findings of 421 inspections conducted across schools in Great Britain. The report aims to assess how schools are fulfilling their legal obligations to manage asbestos effectively.

The inspections revealed that most schools were in compliance with their legal duties and had effective systems in place to manage and monitor the condition of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). However, a small percentage of schools (7%) had significant failings in their systems, necessitating enforcement notices to rectify them. Most of these failings were related to improvements needed in their management plans or surveys.

A single visit identified a risk of exposure to asbestos, requiring prohibition notices to be served, which prevented access until the asbestos was safely removed from the area. These were in boiler rooms, which pupils and teaching staff do not have access to.

The report also identified common areas for improvement, which included schools not having an up-to-date survey on site that clearly shows the location of asbestos throughout the estate, registers not clearly indicating if remedial action identified during a survey has been completed and records updated, and schools not having a clear and easily understandable asbestos management plan in place that is specific to their site.

The report further discusses the methodology of the inspections, demographics of the schools visited, enforcement actions taken, asbestos management measures, roles and responsibilities of school staff members, training and support for in-house staff, and management of contractors.

The HSE report concludes that while most schools are following the relevant guidance and complying with the requirements of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, there are areas where improvements can be made. Schools are encouraged to reflect on the findings of this report and ensure their systems are suitably robust and regularly reviewed.

Management of Asbestos in Schools Opinions To Consider

The HSE report, titled “Asbestos Management in Schools Inspection Initiative 2019/2020,” revealed that 20% of the schools inspected had failed to provide evidence of having a comprehensive asbestos management plan. This finding is concerning, considering the potential health risks associated with asbestos exposure.

The report also highlighted that 90% of the schools had asbestos materials in good condition, and 98% of the schools had taken appropriate measures to prevent accidental damage to asbestos. However, these figures contradict the recent “Damage Report” issued by Start Software, which examined 3.5 million asbestos samples across more than 600,000 surveys in 700,000 buildings. The Damage Report found that 55% of asbestos in schools had damage, i.e., not in a good condition.

The Importance of Management of Asbestos in Schools

The importance of asbestos management in schools cannot be overstated. Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was widely used in the construction of buildings, including schools, until the late 20th century due to its heat-resistant properties and durability. However, when disturbed, asbestos fibres can become airborne and, if inhaled, can lead to serious health conditions such as lung cancer, and mesothelioma.

Children, due to their developing bodies and longer life expectancy, are at a significantly higher risk if exposed to asbestos. A study by the UK’s Committee on Carcinogenicity (CoC) found that a five-year-old child exposed to asbestos is five times more likely to contract mesothelioma than someone exposed to asbestos in their 30s. This stark statistic underscores the critical need for effective asbestos management in schools.

However, managing asbestos in schools presents unique challenges. Unlike adult environments such as offices or industrial sites, schools are dynamic, bustling places filled with curious children who may unknowingly disturb asbestos-containing materials. Furthermore, the nature of school buildings, many of which are ageing and subject to wear and tear, can make the task of managing asbestos even more complex.

Schools often have a variety of different buildings, from modern structures to older ones, some dating back to the Victorian era. These older buildings are more likely to contain asbestos, and their age and condition can make the management of asbestos more difficult. Regular maintenance and refurbishment activities can also disturb asbestos, increasing the risk of exposure.

Therefore, it is crucial that schools have robust asbestos management plans in place. These should include regular surveys to identify and monitor the condition of asbestos-containing materials, clear procedures for managing asbestos safely, and training for staff to ensure they understand the risks and know what to do if they suspect they have found asbestos.

The Role of Acorn Analytical Services & Management of Asbestos in Schools

At Acorn Analytical Services, we understand the critical role we play in managing asbestos in schools. As a UKAS accredited asbestos consultancy, we are dedicated to ensuring the safety of your school environment. Our team of experienced and certified professionals is committed to providing comprehensive asbestos management services.

We offer a range of services, including asbestos surveys, asbestos sample testing, asbestos air testing and asbestos removal management, all designed to help schools effectively manage their asbestos risks. Our expertise and experience in asbestos management are second to none, and we take pride in our ability to provide solutions that ensure schools are safe environments for learning and teaching.

Compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 is not just a legal requirement but a moral obligation to protect the health and safety of our children, teachers, and other school staff. These regulations require duty holders, including school managers, to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises effectively.

At Acorn, we’re here to help you meet these requirements. We work closely with you to understand your specific needs and provide tailored solutions that ensure you’re not only compliant with the law but also doing everything possible to protect your students and staff from the risks associated with asbestos.

Remember, managing asbestos is not a one-time task but an ongoing responsibility. With Acorn by your side, you can be confident that you’re taking the right steps to manage asbestos effectively in your school. We’re here to provide the support, expertise, and services you need to make your school a safe place for everyone.

A Call to Action: Ensuring Safe Learning Environments through Effective Asbestos Management

The management of asbestos in schools is a multifaceted issue that demands a comprehensive and strategic approach. The recent HSE report offers some insights into the current state of asbestos management in schools, but it’s evident that there’s more work to be done. The fact that the study wasn’t a true random spot check, coupled with the contradiction between the HSE report and the Damage Report issued by Start Software, underscores the need for more comprehensive and unbiased studies on asbestos management in schools.

As a UKAS accredited asbestos consultancy, we at Acorn Analytical Services are dedicated to helping schools manage asbestos effectively and safely. By offering comprehensive asbestos management services, we’re playing a pivotal role in ensuring that schools are safe environments for learning and teaching.

The management of asbestos in schools isn’t just a legal requirement—it’s a moral obligation. We have a duty to protect the health and safety of our children, teachers, and other school staff. This task requires the collective efforts of all stakeholders, including schools, asbestos management companies like us at Acorn, and regulatory bodies such as the HSE.

Together, we can ensure that our schools are not only places of learning but also safe havens for our children.

If you’re concerned about asbestos in your school or need help managing it effectively, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Acorn Analytical Services. Contact us today for a consultation or request a quote.

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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