School holidays are the perfect time for asbestos surveys

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When you think of the upcoming October half-term holiday, asbestos surveys and asbestos-related works might not be the first thing that spring to mind.

Fortunately, many schools and colleges wisely choose to use their breaks to get on top of their asbestos issues by organising asbestos surveys or carrying out works which – without the proper expertise – could run the risk of disturbing asbestos.

Our professional team of consultants will be hard at work throughout the holiday working with schools to make sure their children, staff and visitors are protected from the dangers of asbestos by assisting them with such projects and carrying out asbestos surveys.

Why should schools have asbestos surveys?

Asbestos was widely used in constructing schools in the past but poor structural maintenance and vandalism make schools more vulnerable than other buildings to the risk of release of asbestos fibres.

The truth is one of the biggest risks faced by schools and colleges built before 2000 is that asbestos lurking within their buildings may be disturbed either during maintenance or construction works. Outside of these works, schools also have the added risk that children may accidentally damage parts of their buildings which could also lead to asbestos being disturbed.

As a result, it is imperative that all schools can identify the types of asbestos on their properties and where they are located so they can manage them safely and by far the best way to do this is by having an asbestos survey.

To give you an idea of the scale of the asbestos problem in UK schools we have the world’s highest death rate for teachers from mesothelioma – a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. On average between 200 and 300 people also die each year from exposure to asbestos as school children. Tragically, children are particularly vulnerable to developing mesothelioma. A five-year-old who is exposed to asbestos is five times more likely to contract mesothelioma than someone who was exposed in their thirties.

What advice are schools given about asbestos?

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) offers comprehensive guidance to schools about managing asbestos.

It makes it extremely clear that it is extremely important that any asbestos present in schools or colleges must be located and managed effectively.

Failure to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 is a criminal offence. The HSE will investigate incidents where dutyholders fail to manage the risks and take enforcement action where appropriate. If schools fail to manage their asbestos correctly they will put people’s lives in danger and could be prosecuted by the HSE.

The National Education Union (NEU) is also very vocal when it comes to what schools should do when it comes to asbestos.

The NEU believes that asbestos surveys should be carried out in all schools unless there is a good reason not to do so.

It says many education employers will previously have carried out some forms of survey, in particular the ‘condition surveys’ required under the asset management planning process but they  should not automatically assume that such surveys satisfy the requirements of the duty to manage asbestos.

The NEU and the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC) both have concerns about the quality of many asbestos surveys and advise that surveys should be undertaken by competent personnel.

The NEU strongly recommends that schools should only use surveyors, like Acorn, which are accredited by the UK’s national accreditation body UKAS.

The union also says that copies of asbestos surveys should be readily accessible to staff so they can monitor the condition of their work areas and report any damage to any areas that contain asbestos. The NEU believes this information should be on permanent display in the staff room.

How can Acorn help schools?

As we mentioned earlier, we provide asbestos surveys including asbestos management surveys which is usually the survey you undertake as the first step towards safely managing asbestos in your building.

A management survey is not very intrusive and includes the sampling of suspected asbestos materials. It will generally include visual inspections of ceilings, walls, floors, accessible ducts, service risers and lofts. Our experienced and qualified asbestos surveyors will inspect all areas of your building to locate any surface-level asbestos-containing materials. It is best for schools to carry out asbestos surveys and asbestos-related works during their holidays because this is when there are far fewer people on site.

We’re looking forward to working with lots of schools and colleges over the October half-term holiday. If you would like your school or college to be one of them don’t hesitate – get in touch with us today!

Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us   

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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