HSE issues 20 asbestos improvement notices to schools

Twenty schools have been handed improvement notices from the Health and Safety Executive after an inspection programme revealed inadequate control of asbestos hazards.

The HSE inspected a cross-section of 153 non-local-authority schools between April 2013 and January 2014. These included independent, voluntary aided and foundation schools, free schools and academies.

Geoff Cox, the head of HSE’s public services sector, said the majority of schools were acting in accordance with regulations.

“Over the last few years there has been a lot of work by stakeholders across the school sector to raise awareness of the duty to manage asbestos,” commented Mr Cox.

“It is really encouraging to see that awareness of the requirements has increased since our previous inspection initiative.”

But alluding to those handed improvement notices, he added: “Schools should not be under any illusion – managing asbestos requires ongoing attention. Schools now have access to a wealth of guidance setting out clear and straightforward steps to achieve and maintain compliance.”

The freshly published data from Compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations in England, Scotland and Wales shows:

  • 71% of those inspected required either no further action or were given straightforward, simple advice
  • 29% (44 schools) received written advice from HSE
  • 13% (20 schools) were subject to enforcement action in the form of improvement notices

Mr Cox cautioned: “Where duty holders fall below acceptable standards, HSE has taken, and will continue to take, enforcement action.”

Asbesto improvement notices

Improvement notices lay down clear requirements for recipient schools to improve arrangements for managing asbestos.

Following the inspection programme, enforcement action was taken over failures, including:

  • Staff training staff
  • Producing written management plans

Whilst the HSE says staff or pupils were not considered at significant risk of exposure, action was taken to ensure that the vital elements of good control measures were followed.

Asbestos advice to schools

The inspection programme shed light on a number of common trends and the HSE hopes that publishing the data will help knowledge sharing across academic outlets.

To ensure compliance, schools must:

  • Have up-to-date records of asbestos-containing materials in their school
  • Provide training to maintenance staff whose work could expose them to asbestos
  • Have a robust system to alert anyone who may disturb asbestos at the school
  • Make tradespeople aware of location and condition of any present asbestos

The inspection programme demonstrated an overall improvement compared with a similar survey of 164 schools outside local authority control in 2010/11. In this instance, 41 improvement notices were served on 28 schools.

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