Asbestos in schools
14 October 2022
Is The Health and Safety Executive doing enough to manage the presence of asbestos in schools and prioritise the safety of the staff and children?
The Health and Safety Executive has recently announced that it will be carrying out a programme of inspections in local schools and institutions, beginning September 2022. The aim of these inspections is to assess whether the risks associated with asbestos are being managed sufficiently from school to school, and to ensure that the institutions are meeting the Duty to Manage requirements, as per Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (the 2012 Regulations).
Asbestos is more commonly found in school buildings built before 2000, where the use of asbestos-containing materials were used more regularly. Some of the places that asbestos may commonly be located include:
- thermal insulation on pipes and boilers;
- ceiling tiles;
- cement roofing; and
The risk of asbestos exposure in schools is lowered by the location of the materials and how they have been used, as asbestos only proposes a risk when it is disturbed or damaged, thereby minimising the risk to children and staff. Those at a higher risk include school caretakers due to the nature of their role and third parties conducting maintenance works. Asbestos materials that remain in good condition and are unlikely to be damaged are not a significant risk to health so long as it is properly maintained, managed and recorded.
The 2012 Regulations have been with us for a while, and place duties on those responsible for the maintenance of the premises to manage the risk of harm from asbestos. Every institution has at least one staff member who is nominated to have the essential knowledge regarding the asbestos on site and how it is managed on their premises. The Health and Safety Executive has begun making visits to the local schools to meet with the nominated staff member(s) to ensure their obligations are being fulfilled, and that they are prepared to discuss any issues noted regarding the maintenance of asbestos materials on site, breaches that have occurred and improvements that can be made. Schools are different from most public accessed buildings, and due to their use and those making use of the sites, must be innovative and reflective in how they manage any actual or suspected asbestos materials on their premises.
The recent announcement from The Health and Safety Executive acknowledges the importance of its responsibility to enforce the 2012 Regulations and the significance of concentrating on the management of asbestos in schools. The health and safety of the staff and children in all schools should be a priority; the recent announcement from The Health and Safety Executive supports its intentions to ensure this happens.
Importantly, the Health and Safety Executive is also prepared to prosecute any institution where the risk of asbestos-related harm has not been regulated to the expected standard. It is therefore important that all schools examine their Asbestos Registers now, their processes, policies and nominated staff member responsible for these Duty to Manage requirements.
The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at October 2022.