School kidsFor most schools and colleges, the key remaining risk is the potential disturbance of asbestos during maintenance or construction works.

There are specific actions that you must take where work is carried out on the premises, which might disturb asbestos materials, including upgrading, refurbishment or demolition. This includes any work that disturbs the fabric of your building, whether it is small-scale repair work carried out by your own staff or a large-scale project that is being contracted out.

When commissioning construction work, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 require you to determine whether there is a risk that the work might disturb any asbestos materials, including any unidentified, presumed or hidden asbestos materials. Where this work will disturb the fabric of the building, you will need to arrange for a relevant refurbishment or demolition survey to be carried out. This is a more intrusive type of survey which involves destructive inspection by a trained specialist to identify all asbestos materials.

You must pass on the findings of both types of survey and details of any known or presumed asbestos materials in the work area to those who will be doing the work. You should also make sure that they use the correct risk control measures. This could be done by implementing a ‘permit to work’ system. Some small, short duration tasks can be carried out by non-licensed workers provided they have received appropriate training and the correct risk control measures are used. This is unlikely to be appropriate in any school setting. Typically, all work on asbestos should be done by a contractor licensed by HSE. HSE has published advice on the types of work considered to be licensable and non-licensable, notifiable and non-notifiable. Those undertaking the work should confirm that the information provided is sufficient.

Once work is appropriately authorised, contractors should be prepared for the unexpected presence of asbestos materials. If further asbestos materials or suspect materials are uncovered, the work should stop, the area made safe and the work reassessed before continuing.

Where safe and reasonable to do so, school or college staff may check that work is proceeding safely and in accordance with the agreed method.

You should check that those undertaking the work have undertaken appropriate post work checks to ensure that the area is safe for re-occupation. If licensed asbestos works have been undertaken, this should include clearance and air test certificates.

It is essential that following any work to asbestos-containing materials, that the asbestos register and management plan are updated accordingly.

Asbestos-containing waste must be properly contained and disposed of in accordance with the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005. If you have contracted out the work, disposal is the responsibility of the contractor, although you will have responsibility for obtaining a waste consignment note to confirm that the asbestos was appropriately disposed of.

Schools and colleges should ensure that all staff and other stakeholders are informed of the proposed works. Trade union health and safety representatives should be consulted in a timely manner on matters relating to the planned work as required by the Safety Representatives and Safety Committees Regulations 1977 (as amended) and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996 (as amended).

Case study 3: the importance of managing works in line with regulations to avoid asbestos exposure, prosecution and financial sanctions

The unsafe removal of asbestos insulation boards at a large school led to several people being exposed to asbestos fibres.

HSE prosecuted the school and the director of the company responsible for the refurbishment project, after an investigation found they had failed to identify and prevent the risk of asbestos exposure.

The HSE investigation found that over an 18-month period, from the initial design stages through to the construction work, there was inadequate planning and a failure to carry out a full asbestos survey, despite the fact that a sample taken from the building had identified the presence of asbestos.

The school was fined £60,000 and ordered to pay £13,000 in costs. The director of the company was fined £10,000 with costs of £6,000.

Key resources

Further information on asbestos management during maintenance or building work can be found in:


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