More than 2,000 people die each year from mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer as a result of past exposure to asbestos at work. As such, the HSE are getting tough on organisations who place personnel at risk – and schools are not immune.

In 2018, Kent County Council (KCC) were fined £200,000 after asbestos was disturbed at Lansdowne Primary School. A caretaker had removed a steriliser unit in the kitchen, exposing and leaving an asbestos rope hanging from the ceiling.

What do you need to do?

Those responsible for the maintenance and repair of school buildings have a legal duty to manage any on-site asbestos.

Buildings built in or after 2000 are unlikely to contain asbestos fibres but older sites must comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012.

These require you to:

● Take reasonable steps to determine the location and condition of materials likely to contain asbestos.
● Presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not.
● Keep a current record of the location and condition of the asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) or presumed ACMs on the premises.
● Assess the likelihood of exposure to fibres from these materials and prepare a management plan setting out how the risks from the materials are to be managed.
● Take the necessary steps to put the plan into action.
● Review and monitor the plan.
● Provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

Are you, your staff or pupils at risk?

People most at risk are those involved in the refurbishment or maintenance of buildings, such as plumbers, carpenters, electricians and general contractors. If construction or repair work is not carried out correctly, asbestos fibres can be released, presenting a risk to anyone in the area.

Where is asbestos found in buildings?

Asbestos was used extensively as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s. Areas where you may come across it include:
● Fire breaks in ceiling voids and fire protection panels/partitions
● Pipe/boiler lagging
● Ceiling tiles
● Insulation of electrical equipment
● Corrugated roof/wall sheets, gutters, rainwater pipes and water tanks
● Certain textured coatings
● Bitumen roofing material
● Floor tiles

Asbestos fibres may be released as a result of:

● Drilling holes
● Cutting with hand and power tools
● Breaking up materials
● Dismantling/demolition

If in doubt…

If in doubt – don’t rip it out. Whilst intact, asbestos does not pose a risk to human health. If you suspect you have damaged asbestos material on your school site, seek advice about how to manage it effectively to ensure your school is compliant and your staff and pupils are kept safe.