The majority of local authorities in England with ‘system build’ schools have procedures and precautions in place to manage asbestos safely, according to a survey and follow-up inspection programme.
Of the 152 councils in England that have responsibility for providing education, 110 satisfied the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), via an online survey, that they have systems in place to meet their duties under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
The other 42 authorities were visited by HSE inspectors to ensure that they were also managing the risks from asbestos. These inspections resulted in 32 councils being given further advice about practical improvements and 10 authorities receiving enforcement notices to improve asbestos management standards − covering issues such as training and the need to provide information for tradespeople carrying out work at the schools.
HSE inspectors visited a number of local authorities in the London Region to check that they were taking the action required by HSE to manage asbestos effectively.
Improvement notices were served on three of these London boroughs requiring improvements to be made.
Stephen Williams, Regional director said:
"Our follow up inspections revealed that the majority of authorities had taken action to comply with the legal requirements to manage asbestos and while we were satisfied, on initial inspection, that no teachers, pupils or school staff were put at immediate risk from asbestos exposure, we did identify three authorities identify one authority where enforcement action was taken to ensure that improvements were made to procedures.
“We are keeping these procedures under review and, where necessary, this will involve further visits to look at how well procedures are working in practice."
Speaking about the survey and follow-up programme overall, the head of HSE’s public services sector, Rosalind Roberts, said:
“We are satisfied that most local authorities were taking their responsibilities seriously when it comes to managing asbestos in system build schools.
“Where local authorities had fallen below acceptable standards, we took action to secure improvements. There are key lessons for the whole education sector. Those responsible for managing asbestos must be properly trained and management plans which set out the measures to be taken to manage the risks must be in place and readily available.
“If asbestos is properly managed, remains undamaged and undisturbed then its presence alone should not be a cause for concern. However, there is no room for complacency; managing asbestos in buildings needs effective and ongoing attention. Those most likely to be exposed are tradesmen who may disturb it through their work – so it is essential that their work is carefully planned and managed.”
The survey and inspection programme were carried out in conjunction with the Department for Education (DfE), and is the latest in a series of initiatives to ensure that local authorities and schools responsible for system buildings are managing the risks from asbestos.
In 2006, the Asbestos in Schools Working Group was established and produced guidance on managing asbestos. This was followed by an inspection programme in 2007/08 to check compliance with the duty to manage asbestos requirements.
Another survey and inspection initiative will be undertaken between October 2010 and March 2011 to check compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 in those schools that fall outside local authority control.
The results from the joint HSE/Department for Education survey (and any resulting follow-up inspections) of all 152 Local Authorities (LAs) in England with responsibility for education provision are available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/services/education/information.htm#asbestos
Notes for editors:
Local Authorities served: Lambeth, Waltham Forest, Harrow
Many schools have so-called ‘system buildings’ - some of these have a structural frame that is fire-proofed with asbestos materials. HSE guidance sets out simple solutions that have been shown to manage the risks from these buildings.
Duty to manage:
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, regulation 4 requires duty holders with a legal responsibility for non domestic premises to manage the risk from any asbestos that may be present.
For more information visit www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/managing/index.htm
Frontline HSE Inspectors work with duty holders in a proportionate and consistent way to improve health and safety performance. This includes:-
This gives practical improvements that can be made. Though advice has no legal standing, failure to follow it may result in further enforcement action being taken
This sets a legal timeframe for a particular situation to be resolved. There is not considered to be an immediate danger. Employers failing to meet the terms of a notice by the expiry date may be subject to legal proceedings.
This is served where an employer/ duty holder is failing to protect employees and the public and there is a risk of serious personal injury. A prohibition notice deals with immediate danger and the work/ activity must stop immediately, while the issue is resolved.
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