Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and building owners have a duty to protect their staff from the risk of exposure. The Academy (as the ‘duty holder’) is responsible for ‘identified’ and ‘unidentified’ asbestos on an Academy site.
New Approved Codes of Practice
A raft of new Approved Codes of Practice and accompanying guidance has been released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). The updated documents have been published on the HSE website as part of the HSE’s mission to simplify their information and implement the recommendations of the Loftstedt Report ‘Reclaiming Health and Safety for All’.
If your building was built or refurbished before the year 2000, you should assume that asbestos is present. Your Asbestos Register will detail the location and types of ‘identified’ asbestos but ‘unidentified’ asbestos could be exposed when undertaking works in areas such as roof voids, fire breaks, heating systems, door & window surrounds etc. You should always presume any material contains asbestos unless there is strong evidence to suggest it does not.
If you are planning on undertaking any works, you must ensure that the area and materials that will be impacted by the works does not contain asbestos. You may choose to employ a suitable trained person to undertake a survey of the area. Organisations that sample and analyse asbestos need to be accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS).
When you are undertaking works, you must assess the potential risk from asbestos to users, staff and contractors. Dependent on how you have procured your asbestos survey, you need to ensure that you have a plan to manage materials that are likely to be disturbed. Some damaged asbestos can be made safe by a licensed contractor by repairing it and sealing or encapsulating it. Asbestos that is not likely to be damaged or disturbed and remains intact can be left in place. You must make sure that this is logged on your Asbestos Register and you have informed all relevant parties of its existence and that there is some form of warning system identifying asbestos containing materials.
You should undertake an inspection of asbestos on your site at least every 6 to 12 months, looking for deterioration or damage and updating your asbestos log accordingly.
Academies need to be vigilant when planning and undertaking works on a school site where there is known to be or potentially could be asbestos. Important lessons can be learnt from the recent HSE case which was brought against Equitas Academies Trust and Birmingham Glass Services Ltd (BGS); which resulted in the Academy receiving a fine of over £12,000 after admitting to a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act.
BGS had been contracted by Equitas Academies Trust to replace old windows. The BGS workers were not provided with an induction to the site, nor were they provided any information about the location of asbestos in the building. They were even told by the Academy’s site manager that there was ‘to the best of his knowledge’ no asbestos in the window area.
Whilst removing the windows, two BGS employees encountered strips of asbestos insulating board which were removed using a crowbar, snapped and dumped on the floor. The two BGS employees had not been provided with any form of protective equipment to undertake the work such as face masks or protective clothing.