Asbestos in Schools

27 November 2023  |  Admin

The educational sector can set a benchmark for effective asbestos regulation...

Asbestos legislation in schools represents a collaborative approach between the United States and the United Kingdom, each rooted in distinct historical developments and regulatory milestones. In the U.S., heightened awareness of asbestos-related health risks prompted the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1970, followed by the enactment of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1986. AHERA specifically targeted asbestos management in educational institutions, emphasising tailored inspections, management plans, and response actions.

Across the Atlantic, the UK's journey toward robust asbestos regulation culminated in the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012), a legislative consolidation that strengthened the country's approach to managing asbestos across various sectors. Notably, the UK's regulatory framework, encompassed by Regulation 4, extends beyond educational institutions to include all non-domestic premises, placing a comprehensive duty to manage asbestos risks on duty-holders.

A comparative analysis of EPA, AHERA, and the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012) reveals shared commitments to recognising and addressing the health hazards of asbestos. Both nations mandate identifying and managing asbestos-containing materials, underscoring a global awareness of the importance of stringent regulation in safeguarding public health.

However, disparities emerge in the specificity and scope of these regulations. AHERA's emphasis on schools contrasts with the UK's broader approach, exemplified by Regulation 4's duty to manage and encompass all non-domestic premises. Variations in enforcement mechanisms and penalties, with the U.S. employing a federal framework and the UK relying on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), reflect distinct legal and administrative structures.

Shifting focus to international best practices in asbestos management within schools, key strategies emerge. These include implementing comprehensive asbestos management plans, conducting regular inspections and monitoring, prioritising employee and stakeholder training, transparent communication, employing safe asbestos removal strategies, meticulous record-keeping, integration with broader building maintenance programs, adherence to government oversight, and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Bespoke strategies for Schools could be rolled out nationally. Setting up a blanket asbestos management system for schools would be cost-effective and time-saving. Local authorities would benefit from economies of scale with generic practices and procedures, ensuring all School buildings are consistently safe. This approach allows schools to pool resources, share best practices, and collectively address asbestos-related challenges. 

In doing so, the educational sector sets a benchmark for effective asbestos regulation. It cultivates safer environments, exemplifying the advantages of a cohesive, nationally implemented strategy that serves the well-being of students, educators, and staff.

Katie Parsons-Young
Director, Kusten Vorland Ltd.