The HSE are prioritising asbestos management in schools and have recently announced that schools must be ready for imminent asbestos inspections, so it’s important to be prepared; not only so you’re not caught out if you’re paid a visit, but to help keep everyone safe on your premises, including yourself.
But where do you start?
Luke Pargeter, CEO of iAM Compliant and Emma Parker of Delegated Services share below their insider tips on how to prepare for when the call comes in or the HSE arrive at your school reception.
If you’re a school manager, this is a must read!
Start with an Asbestos survey
If you haven’t already got an asbestos survey, this is definitely the place to start. Without a survey you won’t know if there’s any asbestos on your site, what condition it’s in, and if there’s any action needed, so it’s a fundamental starting point.
Budgets are tight right now. And we’re all for saving money for your school by doing as much as possible yourself, but asbestos is such a specialist area that we’d really recommend getting a good quality survey carried out by an accredited UCAS UK surveyor. Yes, it’ll cost a few bob to get done, but getting these foundations right are critical to effectively and safely managing asbestos on your site, so it’s worth the investment.
The surveyor (make sure you see evidence of appropriate experience and training!) will carry out a thorough assessment of your site, really examining everything in minute detail.
The outcome of this survey will provide you with information on what Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) you have in your school building that your building users could come into contact with in the normal day-to-day running of things.
If you’re going to undertake maintenance, refurbishment, or any type of work even if it’s just installing IT cabling, you should ideally not perform any of these until you’re sure the people carrying out the work won’t be encountering asbestos. So, in this situation you’ll need a Maintenance/Refurbishment Survey in addition to your day-to-day asbestos survey.
Top Tips to get Asbestos inspection ready
Now you’ve got your asbestos survey in place, well, that’s a great start, but there are some key other areas you need in place to ensure you’re fully compliant.
- Risk Assessment: A good survey will also include an assessment of the risk of asbestos present on your site and recommended actions to undertake. The assessment will identify whether any asbestos on your site is problematic or not, look into whether it could be damaged, where it’s located, and which type of asbestos it is.
- Management/Action Plan: It’s all well and good having a thorough survey and risk assessment in place, but what are you actually going to do about it? Your action plan will identify measures needed to offset and mitigate any risks that have been flagged up. You need to look at this at least every six months, checking the identified asbestos to see if there has been any deterioration or damage. A good survey will often take photographs of the asbestos material so when you come to reinspect you can take further photographs to evidence any changes.
- Staff Briefings: The HSE may choose to call your site rather than just turn up at reception, so they may speak to anybody on your school site. If the staff member they speak to doesn't seem clear on what asbestos is or what plans are in place to manage it, that’s going to be a red flag to the HSE. So, talk to your staff in the office or anyone who is likely to answer the phone, give them a rundown, brief them on your asbestos survey and management plan. Ensure all your asbestos documents are kept both electronically and physically somewhere everyone has access.
- Asbestos Training: There could potentially be asbestos in any part of your site, so it’s important that everyone has at least a basic awareness of what asbestos is, where it may be lurking and the dangers it can pose if disturbed.
So, you’ve got all your documentation, plans, training & briefings in place. But what is it that the HSE are specifically going to ask when they come knocking or call your reception?
Questions HSE are likely to ask at your Asbestos inspection
- Do you have an asbestos management plan? And if so, please provide a copy.
All non-domestic premises built before the year 2000 must have an asbestos management plan.
Has asbestos been identified at your site? Please provide up to date records.
Asbestos that’s identified is usually detailed in an asbestos register.
Are all asbestos containing materials in a good condition? Please provide evidence.
Asbestos in a good condition means that it is being managed properly.
Has the risk of people being exposed to asbestos been assessed? Please provide a copy of these assessments.
This usually comes in the form of a priority risk assessment. These assessments look at the risk of people being exposed to asbestos and not just the asbestos material itself.
The good news is, if you’ve got a robust asbestos survey, risk assessment and action plan in place, none of the above will cause a problem. But it’s key to make sure you’re prepared ahead of that knock on the door or call to reception.
The main pitfalls during an Asbestos inspection
A few years back, the HSE ran some asbestos inspections across a range of schools and issued 20 improvement notices. These were areas where the schools needed to make improvements to be fully compliant.
Here we share the key areas they tripped up on, so you can ensure you avoid them when it’s your turn for inspection.
- Lack of an effective asbestos survey
- The survey isn’t easily accessible/staff don’t know where it is
- No management plan off the back of the survey
- Lack of an asbestos risk assessment
- No asbestos awareness training
Asbestos Compliant Quick Checklist
Accredited asbestos survey that identifies the location and condition of asbestos, gives that a risk/prioritisation score
Action or Management Plan including record of regular inspections of identified asbestos
Full briefed teachers and other staff
Asbestos briefing in place for any contractors or other visitors to your site
Asbestos awareness training in place
Take a look at our Be Asbestos Ready Toolkit – it has everything you need to swot up on asbestos including our awareness course, asbestos materials checklist, how to prepare for an HSE inspection, how to ensure you’re compliant and how to spot asbestos in your school. It’s your one-stop shop for all things asbestos!
For a refresher on what asbestos actually is, the history behind it, where it hides and the damage it can do check out our previous blog - Asbestos in Schools: The Facts.
If you'd like to make a start of recording your asbestos data and management plans, why not try out iAM Compliant for free?