Asbestos risk management in schools

Health and safety expert discusses asbestos risk management in schools

Louise Hosking, a chartered health and safety practitioner and director of Hosking Associates, discusses the issues and challenges involved in identifying and monitoring asbestos risk in schools

From the 1950s through to the 1980s, asbestos was used extensively in the construction of school premises. Asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were used in fireproofing around structural columns and in fire breaks.

ACMs were used extensively by the Consortium of Local Authorities Special Programme (CLASP), which formed in England in 1957 with the purpose of developing prefabricated school and public buildings. The system used light gauge steel frames, which enabled quick and economical construction. Frames were finished in a variety of cladding, many of which had an ACM content.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR) is clear about how asbestos must be managed. CAR Regulation 4 is the duty to manage and states:

  • Steps must be taken to identify ACMs in non-domestic premises to quantify the amount, detail where it is and what condition it is in (create an asbestos register – this must be kept up to date).
  • Presume materials contain ACMs unless you have strong evidence otherwise (eg via sampling or building history).
  • Assess the risk of potential exposure, eg it is more likely in a well-used corridor than in a locked space.
  • Create a management plan that sets out the arrangements for managing ACMs safely and implement it.
  • Periodically review the plan and check it remains relevant.
  • Ensure clear information is provided to everyone who might disturb or come into contact with ACMs.

The responsibility for managing ACMs will be with whoever is responsible for maintenance and repair. For schools that are academies, free schools, voluntary-aided and foundation schools, the duty holder will be the trust.

Similarly, for independent schools, this will be the proprietor, governors or trustees. The local authority is responsible for community schools and voluntary-controlled schools where the premises and function have remained under local authority control.

Here lies the problem. When schools moved out of local authority control, they became responsible for budgets in respect of maintenance and repair. The older the school, the higher the cost of managing the buildings.

I’ve worked with schools who’ve had some support from the local authority, or who have commissioned asbestos surveys based on cheapest quotes, which clearly do not cover all school buildings & spaces.

Even where good surveys are undertaken, they might not be up to date and re-inspections of the material not always undertaken – this can be due to lack of understanding as well as lack of funds. Subsequently, poor condition ACMs may exist in spaces which someone eventually might enter, need to work within or undertake maintenance.


To read the full article featured in Planning and Building Control Today please click here

For more from Louise on Asbestos risk management as featured in Planning and Building Control click here

Louise Hosking is Director of Hosking Associates and IOSH VP