Does asbestos duty to manage training apply to schools and colleges?

The importance of asbestos awareness in educational institutions should never be underestimated, not least as it is instrumental in ensuring proactive asbestos management on such sites.

A UK Department for Education (DfE) survey found in 2019 that around four fifths of schools still contained asbestos, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has acknowledged that there is evidence of teachers suffering from higher rates of asbestos-related cancer. In light of such statistics, it is clear that the responsible and safe management of the now-banned substance at educational premises can be key to saving lives.

Indeed, such is the level of danger that asbestos is known to pose to human health, that since the banning of all forms of asbestos in the UK in 1999, the Government has laid down stringent regulations to help prevent incidents of asbestos exposure.

If you are reading this as someone who may hold responsibility for the management of asbestos on a given school or college site, you might be unsure about the potential relevance of asbestos “duty to manage” training. So, below, we have taken a closer look at this important topic.

Does asbestos duty to manage training apply to schools and colleges?

Asbestos in schools and colleges

As touched on above, there are various data indicating that asbestos continues to be present in the majority of educational institutions in the UK. It has been estimated that approximately 83% of schools contain asbestos, and that more than seven in 10 universities have asbestos present in the fabric of their buildings.

Asbestos was heavily used in construction materials over the course of the 20th century. The substance therefore found its way into schools and colleges in the form of asbestos lagging, sprayed asbestos, asbestos insulating board (AIB), floor and ceiling tiles, and various other products.

Another especially concerning factor is that the asbestos in UK schools and colleges is old, and ageing; asbestos has not been used in new construction and renovation projects since 1999, so the asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that are still present in schools could be highly susceptible to deterioration. That degradation of the material might, in turn, heighten the likelihood of dangerous asbestos fibres being released.

If asbestos fibres linger in the air, they could be breathed in or ingested by someone nearby – such as a school or college worker, student, visitor, or contractor. This could elevate the exposed individual’s risk of developing a potentially fatal asbestos-related health condition – such as mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer – later in life, even many decades after they came into contact with the material.

Legal requirements for asbestos management

When you hear or see the term “duty to manage” in relation to asbestos, this will typically be a reference to regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012).

This fundamentally important asbestos legislation sets out that those who manage non-domestic premises, and who are responsible for the maintenance and repair of such sites, have a “duty to manage” asbestos.

This, in turn, places an obligation on such dutyholders to carry out certain actions, such as taking reasonable steps to determine whether there are any ACMs on the given site, as well as finding out information on the location, condition, and amount of those materials. Dutyholders are also expected to put together, and maintain, an up-to-date record of ACMs on the premises, and devise a plan for the management of the risks the materials present.

It isn’t always entirely clear who is responsible for asbestos management in a school or college. In the case of the majority of schools, it is the employer that will be the dutyholder. So, with regard to local authority-managed schools, such as voluntary-controlled schools and community schools, it is the local authority that is the employer (and therefore the dutyholder).

If the school is a voluntary-aided school or foundation school, however, it will be the school governors who are the dutyholders, and if it is an academy or Free School, the academy trust will constitute the employer – and as a consequence, the dutyholder. In the event of the given school being a fee-paying or independent one, it could be the proprietor, trustees, or governors who have the “duty to manage” asbestos under the law.

To add to the complexity of determining the “dutyholder” still further, it is worth bearing in mind that sometimes, a local authority may delegate repair and maintenance budgets for school buildings to the schools themselves. If this is the case for your school, the school and the local authority will effectively share the “duty to manage” asbestos.

Asbestos awareness training: a legal requirement?

To understand the extent to which asbestos awareness training is or isn’t necessary, it is important to understand what this type of training actually is.

This type of training is not aimed at people who intend to directly work on asbestos materials, and it does not include information on how to do so. It does, however, provide information about how to avoid causing the disturbance of asbestos.

The “duty to manage” asbestos in the CAR 2012 legislation includes a requirement to provide information about the ACMs on a school or college site to anyone who may be liable to work near it. Another obligation under this regulation, is to ensure suitable training is provided to workers who may cause asbestos on the premises to be disturbed.

Sadly, educational staff can definitely be at risk of causing disturbance to asbestos on a school or college site. Classic examples of how this could happen include if staff members pin work to walls – a process that could cause asbestos fibres to be released if the material is present – or if they cause accidental damage to ceiling or wall tiles.

All of this means it is essential for anyone who could disturb asbestos during their normal working day – such as schoolteachers and college tutors and lecturers – to receive asbestos awareness training.

Responsibilities of educational institutions

So, if you are aware that your educational institution’s buildings date from before the year 2000 – and therefore almost certainly contain ACMs – and you have established who the dutyholders would be for your establishment, the next step will be determining your specific responsibilities.

Those responsibilities include:

  • Identifying and managing ACMs. Arranging for qualified asbestos professionals to carry out an asbestos management survey of your school or college site, will enable you to determine the specific ACMs that exist on the premises. You will then be able to record these in an asbestos location register, so that you can make safe and informed decisions on how to manage the risks they pose.
  • Developing and implementing an asbestos management plan. This is a document that sets out information on who is responsible for managing asbestos on a given school or college site. It also contains the asbestos register, information on any plans to work on asbestos materials, and the schedule for monitoring the condition of ACMs on the premises.
  • Ensuring safe working practices and reporting procedures. As aforementioned, there might be a need for both teaching and non-teaching staff at the school or college to avoid certain actions that could present an asbestos risk, such as the pinning of student work into walls. So, they should be trained in how to avoid such risks. Staff should also know about the importance of reporting matters of concern – for example, any damage that has been caused to fixtures or fittings that could lead to asbestos fibres being released.
  • Providing training and information to staff. Important forms of training include asbestos awareness training for those – such as teachers – who could be at risk of disturbing asbestos over the course of their normal working day, as well as asbestos duty to manage training. The latter is a type of training that is specifically aimed at providing vital information to dutyholders and appointed persons, to help them comply with their regulatory responsibilities.

Duration of duty to manage asbestos certificate

In line with approved codes of practice, asbestos duty to manage training should be refreshed at least every 12 months. This will help to ensure dutyholders retain their existing knowledge more effectively, in addition to keeping up to date with any legislative or regulatory changes.

Benefits of asbestos duty to manage training in schools and colleges

It is important to emphasise the distinction between asbestos duty to manage training, and the asbestos awareness training we cited earlier.

While asbestos awareness training is designed for the needs of workers whose day-to-day activities could cause the disturbance of asbestos – but who do not specifically intend to work on asbestos materials – asbestos duty to manage training is aimed squarely at dutyholders and appointed persons who may assist dutyholders.

Asbestos duty to manage training can therefore be crucial for dutyholders in educational settings, given that it will introduce them to be the legal responsibilities and requirements they have under CAR 2012. This will include information on asbestos management plans, action plans, risk management, asbestos surveying, and the broader management of asbestos.

Receiving such training, then, will help dutyholders and appointed persons to make the most informed decisions that are effective in protecting the health and wellbeing of staff and students. This will also help to minimise the legal and financial risks that asbestos might otherwise pose to the school or college – with the result being a both safer and legally compliant learning environment.

Conclusion: asbestos duty to manage training is essential in schools and colleges

As you should hopefully now appreciate, asbestos duty to manage training plays an integral role in educational settings. It is a key component when it comes to achieving compliance with the regulatory requirements around asbestos in schools and colleges, and helps to ensure a safe and healthy learning and working environment for everyone.

Please feel free to click through to find out more about the asbestos duty to manage training we can give you the benefit of here at Oracle Solutions. Alternatively, you might have other asbestos services of ours in mind; you are welcome to contact us by phone or email to request a free and fast quote for any of these.

Photo of Brendan Coleman

Written by Brendan Coleman

Brendan Coleman, with decades of experience in the asbestos industry, is a dedicated Quality Manager. Certified as a surveyor and analyst, he is adept in operations and quality management with a keen focus on HSE compliance. His expertise is pivotal in maintaining high safety and efficiency standards. Brendan ensures our UKAS accreditation requirements are consistently met and exceeded, upholding stringent standards in asbestos remediation. His commitment to enhancing quality and customer satisfaction makes him an essential advisor in asbestos management.