The list of schools concerned, uncovered as a result of the asbestos management assurance process, launched by the government last year to develop a greater understanding of the management of asbestos in schools, will now be investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
An estimated 90% of school buildings in England contain asbestos – leading many to question the long-term safety of staff and pupils.
Asbestos is certainly an issue we have come across throughout our work in the education sector. In fact, several of the improvement works we are currently undertaking at academy schools are being impacted by the presence of asbestos. This is particularly the case for heating replacement schemes – one of the reasons that schools are keen to undertake replacement works is the cost and timeframe involved with every repair required. Due to asbestos presence – often in the ducts, risers, boiler rooms, ceiling voids, floors, insulation on pipes – school caretakers are unable to undertake repair work themselves (such as leaks, burst pipes etc), with specialist contractors being required.
The good news is that academies can apply for CIF funding for emergency asbestos removal. We had a CIF bid approved for emergency asbestos removal at an academy in Ashton, Greater Manchester.
Other CIF funded schemes we are project managing, such as fire alarm installations and roofing repairs, are also being impacted– with asbestos being present in asbestos in artex ceilings, wall panels, roofing felt, asbestos ducts on vents that pass through the roof, etc.
Due to the prolific nature in which asbestos was used in the construction of school buildings, detailed Asbestos Refurbishment Surveys needs to be conducted prior to the commencement of any school project.
Following inspection, some asbestos removal is notifiable, with a 14 day notice period required. Without the careful management of a specialist consultant, the programme of works can quickly be delayed. Timescales are always an issue as many schools are oversubscribed and have absolutely no spare space, meaning all work must be completed within the six week summer holiday period.
There are a lot of pitfalls and regulations relating to asbestos that school staff don’t necessarily have knowledge of, which is why working alongside a building consultant with good knowledge of schools is vital. Asbestos is an extremely dangerous material and works need to be expertly planned and project-managed to ensure the health and safety of contractors, staff and pupils – especially if the works are being undertaken in a main corridor / circulation space that needs to be taken out of bounds.
To discuss our school building consultancy services, including project managing school building works and applying for CIF funding, please contact us.