Is your school using the summer holidays to get to grips with asbestos?

Acorn Analytical Services

When you think of where asbestos might be lurking in the UK you might picture prefab houses or garages or possibly post-wartime office blocks and factories.

The last place any of us would ever want to picture asbestos are the places where we send millions of our children every day – our schools.

The terrifying truth is more than 75% of our schools contain asbestos – all of that asbestos is old and much of it is deteriorating.

Between 1945 and 1975 alone – when the use of asbestos was at its height – more than 14,000 schools were built and many of these contain asbestos insulating board products.

As a result, between 2009 and 2019 more than 200 UK teachers died from the effects of being exposed to asbestos and it is estimated that for every teacher fatality, nine ex-pupils can also expect to fall victim to the deadly substance. The reason for this is that children are particularly vulnerable to developing the cancer mesothelioma – which is caused by asbestos in 90% of cases. A five-year-old who is exposed to asbestos is reported to be five times more likely to contract mesothelioma than an adult in their 30s. It is estimated that between 200 and 300 people die in the UK every year as a result of being exposed to asbestos as school children.

Teachers’ unions have labelled the situation scandalous and have argued that such figures prove the Government’s policy of leaving asbestos in situ has failed.

So, why does the legacy of asbestos continue to haunt our school buildings?

Well, the current guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) states that as long as asbestos is in good condition and is not likely to be disturbed it is better to manage it for the remaining life of the school rather than to remove it. Consequently, most of the asbestos remains in our schools and will have to be managed for a long time into the future.

The key thing here is management. Some schools have effective systems of asbestos management in place but many do not. Many may have some form of an asbestos register, however many are not kept up to date and accurate.

This needs to be done because asbestos was widely used in schools so you are likely to find it throughout a school’s estate. It is most commonly found in schools in spray coatings which were applied on concrete walls, ceiling and steelwork for fire protection or insulation, in insulation lagging particularly around pipework, boilers and ducts and in insulation boards. You will also find it in asbestos cement products such as wall and ceiling panels, corrugated roof panels, tiles, gutters, pipes and decorate plaster-type finishes.

The presence of asbestos in schools is such an important topic that earlier this year it formed a major feature in the Education Executive – or EdExec – publication which is targeted at key decision makers in the UK’s schools and academies.

The feature highlighted the dangers of asbestos and urged schools to make sure they were up to date with the latest guidance.

At Acorn Analytical Services we realise how daunting it can be for schools to get to grips with dealing with the asbestos on their premises even with the Department for Education’s guidance for schools on where asbestos may be located.

This is why we have put together an easy to download checklist to help you check if your school is compliant with asbestos law.

To make things even easier we also offer a complimentary asbestos audit for schools which is undertaken by one of our qualified asbestos consultants.

With the summer holidays fast approaching now is one of the best times to get to grips with asbestos issues in educational establishments.

On the whole, asbestos management surveys tend to be only minorly intrusive but if any further work is required it is far better for this to be scheduled during the holidays when hundreds of staff and students aren’t on the premises.

So, if you want further information about how we can help your school click here today.

Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us