Asbestos inspections in schools, colleges and trusts

By Robert Gould, Partner, Barker 

Notification of HSE inspections: what is happening?
Starting in September 2022, schools, colleges and trusts in England, Scotland and Wales are to be subject to an inspection programme by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), looking at how they are managing the risks of asbestos.

Why is this happening?
In statistics released on 6 July 2022, HSE acknowledged for the first time that there is evidence of higher rates of the asbestos cancer, mesothelioma, in teachers, noting “proportional mortality ratios are somewhat higher for teachers and administrative occupations than those for nurses, sales occupations and process operatives, and this may suggest the potential for asbestos exposure during work time was somewhat higher in these jobs…”. 

This follows a DfE survey in 2019 which showed that around four in five schools contain asbestos and almost 20% of schools are not managing asbestos “in line” with government guidance.

The inspections are taking place to ensure compliance with the regulations and raise awareness of asbestos in schools.

Will we be notified prior to an inspection?
The HSE is not obliged to give notice and may visit at any reasonable time. However, in relation to this programme the regulator said its inspectors would contact the school beforehand to arrange a suitable date and time for the inspection.

What will happen if we are inspected?
The HSE has provided a guidance note and short animation on what schools should expect when they are inspected. This can be found here.

What do we need to do?
These inspections come as a response to recent evidence showing schools have a higher-than-average incidence of asbestos-related disease. The law concerning the management of asbestos has not changed and there are no new duties or obligations on schools or trusts.

You and your organisation should already be complying with the law, principally The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The regulations place duties on those with responsibility for the maintenance of work premises, including schools and colleges, to manage the risk from asbestos. For the majority, this will be the employer.

What should we be doing?
You should review your current arrangements for managing asbestos, specifically ensuring that you are complying with your duties in The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The HSE has produced a Checklist for Schools to identify the key requirements. These can be summarised as:
  • Responsibility: Have you identified the duty holder and assigned roles and responsibilities?
  • Survey: Have you got an up-to-date asbestos management survey?
  • Management: Have you got an up-to-date asbestos management plan?
  • Disturbance: Have you implemented systems and procedures to inform those who may disturb asbestos and manage the associated risks?
  • Training: Have you identified the training needs of different staff and ensured this has been provided? 
Where can I get more information?
HSE - Managing asbestos in schools - Frequently asked questions
HSE - Managing asbestos in buildings: A brief guide
DfE - Managing asbestos in your school or college

Robert Gould is a Partner at ASCL Premier Partner Barker Associates

Robert will be leading a webinar at 12pm, Wednesday 21 September 2022 on Asbestos in Schools. The session will discuss what this inspection means for schools, your responsibilities and actions you need to take.
Posted: 22/08/2022 15:57:15