Managing Asbestos

3rd June 2014



Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and building owners have a duty to protect their staff from the risk of exposure. The Academy (as the ‘duty holder’) is responsible for ‘identified’ and ‘unidentified’ asbestos on an Academy site.


New Approved Codes of Practice


A raft of new Approved Codes of Practice and accompanying guidance has been released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The updated documents have been published on the HSE website as part of the HSE’s mission to simplify their information and implement the recommendations of the Loftstedt Report ‘Reclaiming Health and Safety for All’.


Managing Asbestos


If your building was built or refurbished before the year 2000, you should assume that asbestos is present. Your Asbestos Register will detail the location and types of ‘identified’ asbestos but ‘unidentified’ asbestos could be exposed when undertaking works in areas such as roof voids, fire breaks, heating systems, door & window surrounds etc. You should always presume any material contains asbestos unless there is strong evidence to suggest it does not.


If you are planning on undertaking any works, you must ensure that the area and materials that  will  be  impacted  by  the  works  does  not  contain asbestos.  You may choose to employ a suitable trained person to undertake a survey of the area. Organisations that sample and analyse asbestos need to be accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).


When you are undertaking works, you must assess the potential risk from asbestos to users, staff and contractors.  Dependent on how you have procured your asbestos survey, you need to  ensure  that  you  have  a  plan  to  manage  materials  that  are  likely  to  be  disturbed.  Some damaged asbestos can be made safe by a licensed contractor by repairing it and sealing or encapsulating it. Asbestos  that  is  not  likely  to  be  damaged  or  disturbed  and  remains  intact can be left in place. You must make sure that this is logged on your Asbestos Register and you have informed all relevant parties of its existence and that there is some form of warning system identifying asbestos containing materials.


You should undertake an inspection of asbestos on your site at least every 6 to 12 months, looking for deterioration or damage and updating your asbestos log accordingly.       


Academies need to be vigilant when planning and undertaking works on a school site where there is known to be or potentially could be asbestos. Important lessons can be learnt from the recent HSE case which was brought against Equitas Academies Trust and Birmingham Glass Services Ltd (BGS); which resulted in the Academy receiving a fine of over £12,000 after admitting to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.


BGS  had  been  contracted  by  Equitas  Academies  Trust  to  replace  old  windows.  The  BGS workers  were  not  provided  with  an  induction  to  the  site,  nor  were  they  provided  any information about the location of asbestos in the building. They were even told by the Academy’s site manager that there was ‘to the best of his knowledge’ no asbestos in the window area.


Whilst removing the windows, two BGS employees encountered strips of asbestos insulating board which were removed using a crowbar, snapped and dumped on the floor. The two BGS employees  had  not  been  provided  with  any  form  of  protective  equipment  to  undertake  the work such as face masks or protective clothing.