Under regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2006, ‘duty holders’ have a responsibility, to manage the risks arising from asbestos in buildings under their control. For the majority of educational establishments, the duty holder will be the employer which for community schools, community special schools, voluntary controlled schools, maintained nursery schools and pupil referral units is the local authority (LA). For voluntary aided and foundation schools it will be the school governors. Usually duty holders carry out asbestos surveys to record the presence of asbestos containing materials (ACMs). These records must then be made available to contractors so that they know where ACMs are located. If necessary following visual inspections, an intrusive survey may be carried out.
Asbestos which is in poor condition, or which is likely to be damaged or disturbed should be sealed, enclosed or removed. Asbestos that is in good condition and unlikely to be damaged is normally left in place and the risks from it managed until the building reaches the end of its useful life. Asbestos does not pose a serious risk if it is managed properly in accordance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations. All major refurbishments carried out under Building Schools for the Future (BSF) would normally include removal of all asbestos and in minor refurbishment work any asbestos that is likely to deteriorate or to be damaged or disturbed would be removed.
The majority of local authorities have adequate asbestos management procedures in place but we are working with the Health and Safety Executive to further improve asbestos management in schools and we will be producing training and guidance on asbestos management for head teachers, governors and local authorities.
This year the Prime Minister and the Schools Minister Diana Johnson met the Asbestos in Schools Group of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health and agreed to set up a steering group to improve the management of asbestos in schools. This is part of the wider work by DCSF and HSE to promote best practice in the leadership and management of health and safety issues in schools.
Statistics for asbestos- related diseases for specific occupational groups are not available.
However, HSE has published analyses of national mesothelioma deaths (one of the main and most serious asbestos related diseases) by last recorded occupation of the deceased. These statistics do not tell us about how many teachers have died from mesothelioma as a result of exposure to asbestos in schools. They are limited because they are based on the last recorded occupation, which may not be the one in which asbestos exposure took place.
The statistics do show that teachers do not stand out as a high risk group: they are among a group of occupations with numbers of deaths from mesothelioma that are broadly in line with the average for all occupations.