Asbestos in Schools

Written evidence submitted by the Health and Safety Executive

Executive summary

1. Asbestos was used extensively as a building material in Great Britain (GB) particularly from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s. When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases, including mesothelioma. Many workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos fibres in high-risk industries like shipbuilding and construction – and the relatively uncontrolled use of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) led to widespread release of asbestos fibres. As a consequence of the very high occupational exposures to asbestos that took place before 1980, annual mesothelioma deaths in GB have increased more than 10-fold over the last 40 years.

2. Recent research has evaluated the full extent of the mesothelioma risks to those who worked with asbestos products during the 1960s and 1970s. The research also found that an appreciable number of mesotheliomas may be caused by non-occupational asbestos exposures. That research does not suggest that school staff are at particular risk of mesothelioma s .

3. As an independent regulator HSE has to make sure that it proposes regulations, undertakes research, provides advice and takes enforcement action to ensure that the risks from the legacy of asbestos use are properly controlled. One of HSE’s biggest challeng es is raising awareness of the requirements to manag e the asbestos that is still in place in many buildings across GB.

4. The presence of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) in schools has led to calls for special attention to protect children. The Department for Education (DfE) has asked the Department of Health’s Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer products and the Environment (COC) to consider the vulnerability of children to low level exposure to asbestos fibres. When the results of this study are completed HSE will work with DfE to review and respond to the results.

5. Phased removal of all asbestos from schools is being advocated by some as a solution. A prioritised approach may be something the Government wishes to consider as a matter of public policy, but it cannot provide the quick fix to the legacy of asbestos use in GB. It is HSE’s view that the risks from asbestos in buildings must be actively managed – by preventing damage and disturbance, by removing ACMs that cannot be managed in situ, and by taking opportunities to remove ACMs when buildings are refurbished or replaced. The proactive removal of asbestos that is in good condition from well-managed buildings cannot be justified as being reasonably practicable under occupational health and safety legislation.

6. Active management of asbestos and phased removal are not , however, alternative options – management of ACMs does not stop should an organisation choose to work towards phased removal. It is essential that duty holders clearly understand that they need to actively manage all ACMs.

7. There is an effective regime of health and safety legislation that regulates asbestos within workplaces including schools – popularly known as ‘the duty to manage’ . This sets out a framework for identifying the location and condition of asbestos, and assessing and managing the risks through the formulation of site-specific asbestos management plans. This is backed up by guidance specifically written for schools. Some schools and LAs do not always maintain these health and safety arrangements , and this has led to uncontrolled work on ACMs tak ing place. This is the exactly the type of failure that the existing legislation has been put in place to prevent – and is a breach of legislation that HSE takes very seriously .

8. Of course, schools are different from many workplaces. The likelihood of pupils disturbing ACMs during unsupervised or unruly activities needs to be considered as part of the schools assessment and management arrangements. Preventing such disturbance involves ensuring that any exposed ACMs are identified and protected or removed. Where asbestos is properly managed everyday activities like slamming doors and unruly behaviour should not lead to release of asbestos fibres.

9. Over recent years HSE has targeted significant inspection efforts at raising awareness of the duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises , including schools , and taking enforcement action against duty holders who were failing to comply. Most duty holders inspected had good systems in place , and maintained their schools and ACMs to the required standards. Enforcement action was taken in some cases to improve standards – and this was well publicised with stakeholders and the media to ensure awareness was raised acro ss the whole education sector.

10. There is no room for complacency. HSE recognises that it is essential to carry on working with duty holders to ensure that safe systems and safe working practices are in place. It is , though , important to note that r esponsibility for managing asbestos rests with the duty holder, and HSE will continue to take breaches of asbestos legislation very seriously.

Introduction to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

11. HSE is a non-departmental public body, established under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA). Health and safety is a matter reserved to the UK Parliament, and HSE is sponsored by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). HSE’s mission is the prevention of death, injury and ill health to those at work and those affected by work activities. HSE delivers these aims within the framework for health and safety set by the Government in Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone.

12. HSE’s statutory functions include proposing new or updated laws and standards, conducting research, providing information and advice, and making adequate arrangements for the enforcement of health and safety law in relation to specified work activities. While HSE regulates work-related health and safety in GB in partnership with local authorities (LAs), regulation of health and safety legislation in schools falls solely to HSE.

Background of asbestos use and risks

13. Asbestos was used extensively in G B , particularly from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s. There were several million tonnes of ACMs installed in buildings for fire protection, insulation and other uses before the potential risks were fully recognised and its use progressively banned − ultimately by 1999. As with many other public and private buildings, schools built, extended or refurbished in that period are likely to contain some form of asbestos. Because its use was so widespread in the past, asbestos fibres are present in very low concentrations throughout the general urban environment.

14. There are three main types of asbestos used in GB – white (chrysotile), blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite). White asbestos was the type most commonly used in GB. Blue asbestos was rarely used in GB after 1970, and brown asbestos was rarely used after 1980.

15. When asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can cause serious diseases, including mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer of the pleural lining, other lung cancers, and asbestosis. There is a latency period of typically 15-40 years between exposure to asbestos fibres and asbestos related disease appearing. The health risks are also dose related – work that disturbs or damages asbestos-containing materials (eg drilling into asbestos insulation board) can generate short term high concentrations of asbestos fibres in the air (potentially orders of magnitude above environmental levels) in the breathing zone of the workers involved in that work, leading to an increased likelihood of inhalation and subsequent disease. Those most at risk from asbestos fibres today are trades people who may unknowingly and repeatedly disturb ACMs and inhale fibres in this way.

16. The legacy of exposures to high levels of asbestos fibres from the past continue to be responsible for around 4500 deaths a year in the GB population. Many workers were exposed to high levels of asbestos fibres in high-risk industries like shipbuilding and construction. At that time, the relatively uncontrolled way that asbestos products were used led to the spread of asbestos fibres throughout the urban environment. This led to exposure of the population outside of those high-risk work activities.

17. The legacy of managing the millions of tonnes of asbestos that are still in place in our buildings creates a major challeng e across much of GB business and the public sector to ensure that work within these buildings does not create a ny further exposure, ill-health and contamination . The layers of protection that exist today to control work with asbestos are very different from the often uncontrolled use of asbestos of the past – the risks from exposure to asbestos are well known; there are strict controls on any work with ACMs, and higher risk work is governed through a licensing regime.

Epidemiological evidence about health effects

18. When ACMs are disturbed or damaged, the fibres can break down into thin fibres that can be breathed in. If these fibres persist in the lungs and do not dissolve they can lead to fatal d iseases.

19. Due to the long latency period of asbestos-related diseases, the available evidence about health effects is largely based on populations that were exposed to asbestos many years ago when exposures were typically much higher than those of today. Much of the available evidence focuses on mesothelioma since asbestos is the only major cause of this kind of cancer .  

20. Annual mesothelioma deaths in G B have increased more than 10-fold over the last 40 years and are likely to continue to increase this decade. This is largely a consequence of the very high occupational exposures to asbestos that took place before 1980. In 2010 there were 2347 deaths compared with 194 in 1970. There are currently about 5 times more deaths in men than women, reflecting that most occupation al exposures occurred in historically mal e dominated industries . However, annual female deaths have also increased in a similar way over the same period – the reasons for this have been considered in a recent research study commissioned jointly by Cancer Research UK and HSE, and led by Professor Peto, an independent leading academic . The work compared information about jobs and other sources of exposure among people with mesothelioma and those without the disease.

21. This "case-control" study has revealed the full extent of the mesothelioma risks to those who worked with asbestos products in the construction industry during the 1960s and 1970s. Those who worked as carpenters, plumbers and electricians as young men during this period of high asbestos use now face particularly high risks of mesothelioma . N early half of currently occurring mesotheliomas in men are likely to be attributable to exposure to a sbestos in construction trades at that time.

22. The banning of asbestos use and stricter controls on any work with asbestos remaining in buildings led to a dramatic reduction in exposures among these groups after 1980.

23. The case-control study also found that an appreciable number of mesotheliomas now occurring in both men and women may be caused by unrecognised or unknown asbestos exposures or by non-occupational asbestos exposures. This include d living with someone who worked in a high risk job - it would not be unusual at that time for work clothing contaminated with asbestos fibres to contaminate the home of those workers . H owever, a much larger number of mesotheliomas were caused by other unidentified sources of asbestos exposure in the environment during the period when asbestos was being widely used possibly related to releases from uncontrolled work activities . S uch non-occupational exposures may account for a majority of the currently occurring female cases. A key reason for t he substantial increase in the annual number of female mesotheliomas over the last four decades is likely to be an increase in environmental exposures that occurred during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s .

24. This increased "background risk" due to environmental asbestos exposures appears to apply similarly to all those born in the 1940s who never did any jobs likely to be associated with asbestos exposure. For example, t he study found that the mesothelioma risk among those who had worked for at least 5 years as a teacher or in some other role within a school was no different to those that had only ever worked in an office environment.

25. Additional r es earch currently underway (also led by Professor Peto) suggests that any background risk is likely to be lower for those born in more recent times. The research is examin ing the asbestos lung content of mesothelioma cases and a random sample of lung tissue from the population (taken during operations for collapsed lungs) – which includes individuals born more recently. The asbestos lung content of people without any known asbestos exposure appears to be lower for those born since 1965 compared with those born earlier. However, this is based on only the small number of lung tissue samples analysed so far and further work is required to fully quantify the extent of any reduction, and to look at those born even more recently (after 1980).

26. This asbestos lung burden research is aiming to identify whether any particular groups of recent workers are associated with asbestos exposure, and therefore future mesothelioma risk. While t he focus of this research is on younger building workers who are those with the highest potential for exposure today , it is also aiming to include individuals in lower risk job groups such as teachers and address the question of environmental exposures . The research report will be published when the study is complete in 2014 .

Analyses of mesothelioma data and the risk to teachers

27. National mesothelioma statistics by occupational group have been used by some to make speculative statements about the risk to teachers. For example, the number of mesothelioma death certificates in a certain time period that recorded "teacher" as the last occupation of the deceased has sometimes been interpreted as the number of teachers that have died as a result of exposure to asbestos in schools. However, the evidence from the case-control study that mesotheliomas among those who only ever worked in jobs like teaching are largely a reflection of other sources of asbestos exposure in the environment suggests that this is not a correct interpretation. The number of deaths nationally with last occupation recorded as teacher is likely to be a n overestimate of the number that actually developed mesothelioma as a consequence of asbestos exposure during the course of their work in schools .

28. All death certificates among those aged 16-74 record the last occupation of the deceased as a matter of course. Therefore, mesothelioma death certificates record the occupation regardless of whether that was the source of the asbestos exposure that led to death. This means that even if there is no occupational effect at all, any large occupational group will appear on appreciable numbers of death certificates. While teaching is recorded as the last occupation on the death certificates of those who had mesotheliomas in an appreciable number of cases, the same is true of many other job groups where exposure to asbestos fibres did not form part of the work activity. The increase in mesotheliomas seen in such jobs is what would be expected if there was an increase in background cases due to non-occupational exposures among those who lived through the period of peak asbestos use, as suggested by the case-control study .

29. As only the last occupation is recorded, there is no record of the individuals’ previous occupations – which could have been in a higher risk occupation. This is another fundamental reason for not drawing absolute conclusions from this data. The statistics HSE has published are useful for making comparisons between occupations but do not represent the absolute numbers of deaths related to w ork in particular occupations . Such comparisons reveal that, among men, certain jobs are indeed recorded much more frequently – particularly construction trades – pointing to a strong occupational effect in certain jobs and particularly amongst men who were more likely to undertake such work during the peak use of asbestos in GB . Teachers are not among these jobs in the data for men. This is also consistent with the findings of the case-control study.

30. In the data for women, very few jobs stand out at all in these analyses: the majority of occupational groups are re corded on death certificates with a frequency that indicates occupation has little or no impact on these statistics . This means that o nly a small proportion of female deaths are related to occupation , and this again is consistent with the finding s of the case control study.

Reviews undertaken by a        dvisory committees

31. HSE’s Working Group on Action To Control Chemicals ( WATCH ) committee ha s considered how the available evidence about health effects based on the populations that were exposed to asbestos many years ago might be useful for estimating the level of risk from asbestos fibres in a wider range of situations . In particular, WATCH has considered how this data can be used to estimate risks where there are lower levels of exposure .

32. WATCH concluded that t here are risks of asbestos-induced cancer arising from work-related cumulative exposures at relatively low levels of exposure. They made clear that the lower the exposure, then the lower the risk would be. WATCH confirmed that "safe" thresholds are not as yet identifiable and therefore, in their scientific judgement, there are risks of asbestos-induced cancer arising from work-related cumulative exposures below the levels currently set within Regulations. WATCH added that even where potential exposures to blue and brown asbestos (but particularly blue asbestos) are a factor of 10 lower than the current control limits, there is no basis for complacency.

33. The Department for Education ( DfE ) has asked the Department of Health’s Committee on Carcinogenicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer products and the Environment (COC) to consider the vulnerability of children to low level exposure to asbestos fibres . HSE has provided the COC with a view on the likely concentration of asbestos in schools. HSE summarised peer reviewed published data from various countries, including the UK, to provide an informed best order of magnitude estimate of the average airborne asbestos fibre concentrations in buildings during normal use and occupation . HSE will work with DfE to review the results of the COC s work when its conclusions are published in May 2013.

Managing the legacy of asbestos usage in GB’s buildings

34. Many opportunities have been taken to remove ACMs during the refurbishment and replacement of old buildings. However, millions of tonnes of asbestos still form part of the fabric of many of the buildings, particularly those constructed or refurbished in the 1950s to 1990s – whether part of the public sector’s estate, business or domestic premises.

35. The challenge we face is how to continue to use and maintain our existing buildings in a way that reduces the risk to the tradespeople who are most at risk, and that maintains the effectiveness of the extensive controls that apply to any work on ACMs (including removal and demolition), while at the same time minimising the exposure of the general population to airborne asbestos fibres – both within workplaces and the environment more generally.

36. In recent years, schools have been the focus of much attention. Information has been used to paint a picture of a large problem, where children and school staff are regularly exposed to high levels of fibres. There are demands from some to accelerate the removal of asbestos from schools. However, there are considerable difficulties with this approach. From a practical point of view, ACMs are often within the fabric of buildings or attached to other building materials so they cannot be easily removed without interfering with the structure of the building, involving large-scale and extended disruption. Removing asbestos materials inevitably entails disturbing them and this risks releasing fibres into the air - if the work is not done to strict legal standards, removal of asbestos may create a greater health risk to those reoccupying buildings than managing in situ. HSE is very clear that proactive removal of asbestos that is in good condition from well-managed buildings is unnecessary. This cannot provide the quick fix for the issues arising from the legacy of asbestos use in GB. Managing of ACMs would continue to form part of the necessary precautions for many years alongside any phased removal programme.

37. Current legislation in GB requires the active management of asbestos in buildings, based on the principles of risk assessment. This provides a practical way to identify, prioritise and properly plan what action needs to be taken, including removal. Where ACMs are assessed as being in good condition and not in a position where they are likely to be damaged they should be left in place and monitored. However, where asbestos is in poor condition or is likely to be damaged during the normal use of the building, it should be sealed, enclosed or removed, as appropriate.

Health and safety legislation that appl ies to asbestos in school buildings

38. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSWA) places duties on employers and others to secure the health, safety and welfare of people at work . HSWA also imposes duties to protect people other than those at work from risks arising to their health and safety from work activities. In schools, this includes risks to pupils and visitors to the school and general requirements for maintaining the buildings . HSWA places duties on those who are best placed to control risks . HSWA applies to all sectors and phases of the education system, whether schools are local authority controlled, autonomous or part of the independent sector.

39. The employer will vary according to the type of school . For instance, the employer may be a Local Authority, a Board of Governors or a Proprietor. While this overall responsibility lies with the employer, head teachers and the school management team have co nsiderable influence in the day-to- day running of schools.

40. T he Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 provide for more specific requirements which flow from HSWA. These R egulations require employers to assess and manage the risks created by their work activities . This involves risk assessment, which requires employers to identify and then take sensible and proportionate measures to control the risks in the workplace.

41. Those responsible for work with asbestos, and those with responsibility for maintenance and repair in all non-domestic premises, have legal duties under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 12). CAR 12 updated previous asbestos regulations, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 (CAR 06) , and introduced changes for some types of lower risk work. C AR 12 places specific duties on employers and self-employed persons who work with asbestos. The aim of CAR 12 is to ensure that work with asbestos is carried out safely and to avoid or minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. There are a number of requirements in CAR 12 such as assessing risk, planning work, obtaining a licence if necessary and using protective equipment to prevent or reduce the risk of exposure to asbestos.

42. Most school staff are not directly involved in managing the buildings or in carrying out repair or maintenance work. Therefore, CAR 12 does not apply directly to the work of most school staff like teaching professionals, and does not require that these staff have the formal asbestos awareness training that is aimed at those who may disturb ACMs as part of their work. These members of staff still need to be aware of the potential hazards of ACMs in classrooms and other parts of the school. The school s plans to manage asbestos , as described below, should therefore include arrangements to inform staff about the presence of ACMs, to provide them with any relevant training to enable them to manage any risks, and ensure that all staff are instructed not to disturb or damage asbestos-containing materials.

43. CAR 12 sets out a framework for identifying the location and condition of asbestos, and assessing and managing the risks through the formulation of site-specific asbestos management plans. Those responsible for maintenance and repair in schools must ensure that anyone who is likely to work on or disturb asbestos is provided with information on the location and condition of the material. These management arrangements are straightforward and are supported by clear guidance available on HSE’s website. CAR 12 does not require the proactive removal of asbestos where this is not necessary to prevent the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

44. Under CAR 12 information, instruction and training is required for anyone whose work could foreseeably expose them to asbestos, and those who supervise them. This includes staff and maintenance personnel who may become exposed to asbestos while carrying out their normal everyday work , for example in plant and boiler rooms where asbestos is present. Any training needs to be appropriate for the work and the roles undertaken by individuals – and is mandatory .

45. In 2002 a specific duty to manage the condition of asbestos in buildings was established to manage the risk created by asbestos within GB’s buildings. The duty was placed on anyone with responsibility for controlling the maintenance of a non-domestic building. This duty continues in CAR12 and complements other requirements which implement the EC's 'Asbestos' Directive.  (The Directive focuses on employers’ duties to their own workers who are about to carry out work. Stricter requirements for licensing were also considered necessary in light of GB’s wider use of asbestos in the past. Since this is a particular issue in GB the licensing requirements are not replicated in every Member State.)

46. The GB system for all non-domestic premises broadly mirrors the USA ’s Federal requirements for schools – except that it does not include a requirement for the provision of information to parent teacher groups.

47. As with many carcinogens, no safe exposure level for asbestos has yet been identified. The law addresses this by requiring employers to reduce the level of exposure below a control limit and to the lowest level reasonably practicable. The application of simple precautions when undertaking work on asbestos will reduce exposures to well below the control limit in the great majority of cases, and prevent the spread of asbestos.

48. Before work involving asbestos is carried out, the workers’ employer is required to carry out an assessment as to whether asbestos is present (and its type, location, condition, etc). This is so that appropriate controls can be put in place to prevent exposure to asbestos resulting from the specific work activity. The employer needs to use information from the building’s asbestos management plan when making this assessment.

49. Work that disturbs asbestos – like demolition or removal of higher risk ACMs - requires a high degree of regulatory control because of the high risks to those involved in the work. A licence is required in order to undertake high risk work. Licensing is an additional requirement to the general framework of health and safety law. Licensed work includes most asbestos removal, all work with sprayed asbestos coatings and asbestos lagging , and most work with asbestos insulation and asbestos insulating board. This work is subject to the strictest set of control requirements within the CAR 12. All licensed work is subject to formal clearance procedures for the work area before reoccupation of the area is permitted.

Management controls – practical issues

50. Responsibility for management controls will vary according to the type of school. I n LA schools, the LA itself normally has overall responsibility for health and safety management . However, many functions including building maintenance are passed to governing bodies or school management teams through delegated budgets. In the case of LAs, a written scheme for the financing of maintained schools set s out the categories of work that will either be financed from the delegated school budget share (revenue repairs and maintenance) or remain the responsibility of the LA (capital expenditure). In such cases both parties will then have duty holder responsibilities for the repair and maintenance of the school .

51. For those schools outside of LA control – for example, Academies , Voluntary aided schools and independent schools - t he employer normally has full responsibility for maintenance and repair of their school buildings, and ha s the statutory duties to manage asbestos under the CAR 12 .

Surveys, inspections and sampling

52. Professional and objective input from a survey is nearly always necessary to understand the actual risks, and to prioritise management attention on actions to tackle the most serious risks. HSE provides detailed guidance aimed at people carrying out asbestos surveys, and for those with responsibilities for managing asbestos under CAR 12. The guidance covers competence and quality assurance and surveys, including: survey planning, carrying out surveys, interpreting results, preparing the survey report and the duty holder’s use of the survey information.

53. In practice, it is the survey that locates ACMs that could be damaged or disturbed by normal activities, by foreseeable maintenance, or by installing new equipment.  The survey should use information about the site layout, building plans, building specifications or architect's drawings, and any history of asbestos work.  The surveyor may not be able to gain access to roof voids and wall cavities – in such case the surveyor will need to presume that there is asbestos present so that even for hidden or presumed hidden ACMs, the duty holder will need to take precautions that would prevent release of fibres. Simple precautions like sealing gaps in panels and regularly inspecting those seals is often all that is necessary.

54. The condition of ACMs can be monitored effectively by visual inspection and checking for any signs of damage.  If there is no visible damage (ie no visible debris/dust/asbestos material in poor condition) then the potential for release, spread and exposure is extremely low. Regular inspections and checks by the duty holder of the condition of ACMs (with suitable records) is the appropriate way to manage and control the risks.  This inspection approach should also check materials which are in place to protect or seal hidden ACMs .   If these protective materials are damaged then remedial action on these materials will be necessary.  In the absence of visible damage or evidence of asbestos debris left from previous uncontrolled work, the concentrations of asbestos fibres in the air are likely to very low and around the realistic limits of quantification of the currently available measurement methods. Airborne s ampling by duty holders will not normally be needed, and can only provide a spot check on air quality.

55. Where airborne asbestos fibre tests have been conducted to measure or replicate the normal occupation of buildings, such testing confirms that the release of fibres into the air is normally 100 to 1000 times lower than the control limit within CAR 12 , provided asbestos is properly managed . Therefore, as long as asbestos is managed properly, teachers and pupils are not likely to be at risk in the course of their normal activities.

Where asbestos management goes wrong

56. The most likely way that ACMs in schools will be disturbed or damaged is through maintenance, repair or construction activities. This includes even seemingly innocuous jobs such as installing telephone or computer cabling where access behind wall panels and to ceiling voids is often needed. Incidents of contamination have also resulted from refurbishment work that has not been properly managed.

57. Significant releases of asbestos fibres above background levels are normally related to uncontrolled direct work on, or damage to ACMs, or damage or disturbance of the asbestos debris from previous uncontrolled work or damage. Examples of this may include asbestos debris left within cupboards or on top of ceiling tiles. Such practices are not permitted under CAR 12. In these situations, it is the person(s) directly involved in these incidents who have the highest risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

58. Voids above ceilings need to be carefully managed where asbestos ceiling tiles are present. Many ceiling voids are likely to be contaminated from the original installation of the ACMs . The void may contain asbestos debris from original cutting/installation and can include off cuts and waste pieces of board. Voids above asbestos ceiling tiles should be assumed to be contaminated and all access and work properly controlled. A ccessing contaminated roof voids without appropriate decontamination procedures can disturb fibres that may have remained in place for many years . Of course, leaving such contamination is not good management – but it is the physical disturbance within the roof void by maintenance staff that creates the risk.

59. The likelihood of pupils disturbing ACMs during unsupervised or unruly activities eg hitting/ knocking panels , needs to be considered as part of the schools management arrangements. Any vulnerable or exposed panels should be identified and protected or removed. These are the types of issues that should be addressed in the schools asbestos management plan as they form part of the essential precautions that ensure that normal school activities do not disturb or damage ACMs .

60. HSE recognises that a minority of schools and LAs do not always maintain these health and safety arrangements – most significantly when arranging for maintenance work to be carried out that disturbs or damages ACMs. It is these schools and LAs that HSE as a responsible regulator aims to influence through its mix of interventions.

HSE’s r egulati on of the management of asbestos in schools

61. Regulation of health and safety in schools in GB falls to HSE . HSE is committed to working to prevent ill health from occupational causes , including asbestos , by robustly enforcing CAR 12. The greatest risk from asbestos across all employment sectors relates to the work of maintenance staff - for example, electricians and general trades people . The se workers are at the greatest risk of asbestos related diseases because they may be exposed to localised high levels of asbestos fibres in their direct work area if the necessary precautions are not closely followed. If they are not given information about the presence of asbestos and the actions they need to take they can unknowingly put themselves and others at risk by disturbing asbestos .

62. HSE, in partnership with business, has run a number of national media campaigns directed at the maintenance trades to raise awareness about risks from asbestos across all work premises While not specifically targeted at schools, the messages in these campaigns have been relevant to schools. Advice and guidance that is tailored for schools is provided on HSE’s website .

63. HSE’s interventions are targeted on the basis of risk. Over recent years HSE has targeted significant inspection effort s at raising awareness of the duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises , and taking enforcement action against duty holders who were failing to comply. When HSE’s inspectors intervene to determine compliance with CAR 12 in any work premises they focus their inspections and enforcement activities to deal with any immediate risks in the following types of circumstances , where :

· no survey has been carried out and there are no robust management systems in place

· there is no management plan t o deal with the asbestos risks

· maintenance workers or others in a building are being exposed or are liable to be exposed to a significant risk from asbestos during maintenance operations

· p eople using the building are exposed or liable to be exposed to a significant r isk from ACMs in poor condition

· no information and/ or training have been provided to those liable to disturb asbestos.

64. Since 2007 HSE has undertaken a series of interventions in schools and LAs as part of this wider programme on the d uty to m anage a sbestos . M ost duty holders inspected had good systems in place , and maintained their schools and ACMs to the required standards. Weaknesses in management systems, planning and training were identified in some schools . The results were well publicised with stakeholders and the media to ensure awareness was raised across the whole education sector .

65. An inspection and enforcement programme was undertaken in 2007/08 to check that those responsible for system built schools ( a common design of building used for schools ) were complying with the duty to manage asbestos and had taken action where this was appropriate. The main focus of these inspections was to raise awareness of new guidance on managing the risk of fibre release from the cladding used on some type s of system built schools. HSE inspectors targeted particular dutyholders to check that HSE’s advice had been followed. Some of these checks resulted in Improvement Notices being served but in the majority HSE found that dutyholders had followed the advice.

66. In 2009/10 HSE worked with the former D epartment for Children Schools and Families on an online questionnaire to raise awareness of asbestos in schools and to determine the level of compliance with the guidance for system built schools in England . Of the 152 councils in England that ha d responsibility for providing education, 110 demonstrated by their responses that they ha d systems in place to meet their duties under the C AR 06 . HSE visited the remain ing 42 authorities to conduct a sample of inspections to check that they also had systems in place .

67. These inspections resulted in 10 authorities receiving enforcement notices to improve asbestos management standards − covering issues such as training, the need to provide information for tradespeople carrying out work at the schools , and keeping asbest os management plans up to date. A total of 18 Improvement Notices and one Prohibition Notice were served on the 10 LAs.

68. The questionnaire and sample of follow up inspections revealed that the vast majority of authorities had take n action to comply with the legal requirements. I nspectors did find a number of common issues that were important elements of effective management systems and HSE wrote to all LAs to raise awareness of these. These include d :

· the importance of LAs providing information where school s transfer to local management

· the need to maintain records

· ensuring the competence of those with a role in ma naging asbestos

· ensuring that asbestos management plans are up to date ; and

· ensuring that there is clarity about who has responsibility for maintenance and repair of individual school buildings.

69. In 2010/11 HSE focused a series of inspections on schools outside LA control . HSE inspectors inspected a random sample of 164 schools across GB . The results of the interventions were collated, and evaluated by HSE’s statistical analysis unit. Inspectors took enforcement action in 28 of the 164 schools – serving a total of 41 Improvement Notices . These covered training ; the requirement for a written asbestos management plan ; and completion of a survey/assessment of the presence of ACMs . The results of all the inspections were analysed by HSE to identify the following common issues of concern :

· t here was confusion in some schools over roles and responsibilities

· i n some schools, information was not as comprehensive, up to date or accessible as it should be

· s ome schools were operating system s that did not ensure that a nyone who may disturb asbestos was made aware of its location and condition ; and

· s ome employer s had not provided in-house maintenance staff with the appropriate level of asbestos training.

70. The result s of HSE’s sample of inspections have been publicised on its website to help raise awareness across all schools about the common weaknesses found. These finding s have been used to help determine the content of HSE’s online information for schools, and to inform HSE’s advi c e to DfE on the content of their asbestos in schools guide launched in October 2012. HSE has also tackled confusion about responsibilities through clearer guidance on HSE’s website.

71. HSE’s current approach to inspection is set out in Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone launched by the Minister for Employment in March 2011. These proposals make clear that there is a need to focus the efforts of the health and safety system in GB on higher risks including the waste and recycling and construction sectors . As a result, HSE does not proactively inspect LA administered schools , and uses collaborative approaches to maintain awareness of health and safety requirements through LA stakeholder groups , and through targeted communications eg a regular eBulletin for LA health and safety representatives .

72. In 2013/14 HSE is , however, focusing attention on schools outside LA control . These are schools that HSE is less able to influence by collaborative efforts with sector stakeholders or through LAs directly. Inspections will target 150 schools across GB to repeat the exercise undertaken in 201 0 /1 1 , and ensure that the learning points shared across the sector have been implemented .

73. HSE recognises that it is essential to carry on working with duty holders to ensure that safe systems and safe working practices are in place . It is important to note that r esponsibility for managing asbestos rests with the duty holder , and HSE takes breaches of legislation very seriously. Where HSE inspectors have identified serious failures to manage asbestos they have take n enforcement action in accordance with HSE’s Enforcement Policy – and they will continue to do so. Recent prosecutions have included :

· a council and building firm being fined for asbestos exposure when school refurbishment exposed a nursery class, school staff and two joiners to asbestos fibres

· fraudsters collud ing to trick an independent school. Two men committed fraud by falsifying a record stating that a school in Abingdon had been properly cleaned of asbestos; and

· a school and a director responsible for a refurbishment project being prosecuted when t he unsafe removal of asbestos insulation boards at a large independent school led to several people being exposed to asbestos fibres.

March 2013

Prepared 25th March 2013