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Billy and Johnny come out to play...with Asbestos?

View profile for Stephen Gerring
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The Department for Education has finally published its asbestos management assurance process report, based on an extensive survey of schools that launched well over a year ago.

Of the 19,522 schools that participated in the survey, responses from 3,485 (17.8%) suggest their practice is “not in line” with the government’s guidance on managing asbestos in schools, which was published in 2017.

It was recently reported that “about 90% of school buildings in England contain asbestos, often around pipes and boilers, and in wall and ceiling tiles” and “more than 200 teachers have died across the country since 2001 from mesothelioma, a form of cancer associated with asbestos” - alarming figures.

If asbestos containing material is in good condition and is not likely to be disturbed or damaged, it presents a low risk but having had direct experience with regards to both assisting schools with asbestos management and training, there are serious deficiencies evident.

We visited a primary school this year to advise on asbestos removal works prior to refurbishment and were given no less than four asbestos surveys. It would seem that they just kept on surveying and had failed to take any action to address the issues identified in the surveys.

Similarly, a secondary school commissioned us to deliver some asbestos awareness training on its premises and when shown to the classroom where the training was to be delivered, we had to request the training was conducted in a different room due to damage to an asbestos insulation board and the debris that was left in the area! How long would this have gone unnoticed? What is happening with the periodic inspections to check on condition?

Potentially one of the most alarming situations involved a Public school that had previously commissioned an asbestos survey with a health and safety consultant that was evidently not qualified to conduct the survey. This became apparent when one of our clients raised concerns with regards to the school boiler room and when we conducted a survey of the room, there were eleven confirmed asbestos containing materials with debris on many items the PTA were storing in the area.

The need for competent advice is fundamental to the effective management of asbestos. Yes a survey is required, with an asbestos register and then an action plan with the remedial actions taken as recommended. Training for staff in managing asbestos containing materials and awareness training for those at risk is also a pre-requisite for the school to manage asbestos.

It is fair to say that the majority of schools are managing asbestos well, however the Governors and Head Teachers need to critically challenge and review the processes that are in place.

If you would like advice in relation to asbestos surveys, management plans, re-inspections or training, please get in touch for a friendly chat today. Call 01622 759 900 or email