HSE inspections of asbestos management in schools

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued an Education ebulletin on 17 July, providing an update on their inspection of schools assessing the management of asbestos. The ebulletin provides a summary of the inspection programme undertaken between September 2022 and March 2023, including key findings.

The report linked in the ebulletin provides more granular detail, summarising the findings of a programme of 421 inspections in schools across Great Britain, and which looked at how a randomised sample of primary and secondary schools are meeting their legal duties to manage asbestos under the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012.

The inspections showed that most schools were complying with the legal duties and effective management systems are in place to manage and monitor the condition of asbestos-contained materials onsite.

A small sample of schools had significant failings. Most of the failings related to improvements required in management plans or surveys. One visit identified a risk of exposure, a prohibition notice was served preventing access until the asbestos was safely removed from the location.

Where letters were sent by inspectors to address areas of non-compliance, these mostly required improvements to management systems. Common areas for improvement included:
  • schools not having an up-to-date survey on site that clearly shows the location of asbestos throughout the estate and highlights any areas not surveyed (which should be presumed to contain asbestos)
  • registers not clearly indicating if remedial action identified during a survey has been completed and records updated
  • schools not having a clear and easily understandable asbestos management plan in place that is specific to their site
  • schools not regularly monitoring the condition of asbestos-containing materials
  • asbestos management plans not having incident procedures for dealing with an unplanned disturbance of asbestos-containing materials, or how to provide information to emergency services who attend sites
  • school staff not having clear roles and responsibilities for managing asbestos and not having deputies or contingency plans in place to cover for staff absences
  • schools not ensuring that contractors tendering for work provide risk assessments, method statements, and evidence of asbestos awareness training
It is important for members to note that while failures were found in the management systems in some schools, this did not mean there was an actual risk of exposure to asbestos. The findings will be used by HSE to inform future interventions and to help identify areas for improvement in schools.

Members should note that the HSE is planning to carry out further inspections to schools across Britain in the 2023-24 academic year.

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