Know your asbestos responsibilities – a five-step guide

In a recent survey of 1,278 head teachers across primary and secondary schools and academies, 43% had not given their staff any written asbestos instruction or training and 31% had no plan to follow if asbestos was to be disturbed.

The legislation is very clear regarding the responsibilities of head teachers in cases of asbestos. Where budgets for building management have been delegated to the school or academy then they become a shared duty holder, responsible for following the asbestos management policies and procedures set out by the local authority.

They may delegate this responsibility to another leader, such as a school business manager, but retain accountability. Failure to follow the policies and procedures could result in prosecution, should a pupil, member of staff, visitor or contractor get hurt as a result of asbestos disturbance. 

There are 5 steps that you need to take to fulfil your legal obligations with regard to asbestos management:

1. Conduct a survey

Firstly you need to find out if your premises contain any asbestos.

This will involve organising a non-intrusive survey by a trained and certified asbestos expert.

2. Produce a register

After the survey has been conducted you need to produce a register of the location of all asbestos containing materials present on your premises.

This is important so that you have an up-to-date record to refer to and can quickly use it inform anyone about the location of asbestos at your site.

3. Undertake a risk assessment

It is only when asbestos is disturbed that it can become a lethal problem. It is therefore important to understand the risk of disturbance for all contaminated areas.

For every area a risk assessment should be carried out to determine the controls that need to be put in place to minimise the risk to your staff, pupils, visitors and contractors.

4. Remove high risk areas

If there are any identified areas that are deemed high risk then you should organise for their removal as soon as practically possible.

5. Produce a plan

To manage the ongoing risk you need to produce a plan that includes the following components:

  • Train and appoint asbestos leaders within the school or academy leadership;
  • Devise an action plan to follow if asbestos containing materials are disturbed;
  • Inform and train all staff members;
  • Ensure that all external contractors working on the premises are informed and have the necessary training and insurance in place;
  • Finally, you need to regularly review and update the plan.

If you need additional Strictly Education provides an unlimited Health & Safety helpdesk service as well as an integrated asbestos software training solution for your staff which can assist you at each of the 5 steps to make sure you are fulfilling your duty holder responsibilities. 

The training module allows on-demand self-paced training for school or academy staff and provides automatic tracking of their completion of the training.

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