Abandoned ClassroomAsbestos in Schools

Responsibility and risk 

Asbestos was extensively used as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s. It was used for a variety of purposes, typically fireproofing and insulation.

Any building built before 2000 (houses, factories, offices, schools, hospitals etc) can contain asbestos.

System buildings (for example CLASP, SCOLA, SEAC, MACE, ONWARD) constructed during the period 1945 -1980 were widely used for the construction of school premises.  These buildings can have structural columns fire proofed with asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

In 2007 a ‘CLASP’ working group was set up to advise on the potential asbestos fibre release in CLASP and other similar system built schools. Guidance on the management of asbestos in system build premises PDF was first published in 2007 and revised in 2008.

caution ribbonsDuty to manage asbestos

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 includes the ‘duty to manage asbestos’ in non-domestic premises.  The responsibility falls to the duty holder. In many cases, this is the person or organisation that has clear responsibility for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises.

Guidance on the duty to manage asbestos can be found in the Managing and working with asbestos. Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Approved Code of Practice and guidance L143 HSE Books 2013 ISBN 978 0717 666 188 and on the duty to manage area of the HSE website.

  • Estimated to be present in at least 75% of schools built post-war
  • The number of teachers dying from mesothelioma has been increasing over the years. The increase in deaths amongst females in primary and secondary education has been some fourfold since 1980

291 school teachers have died from mesothelioma since 1980


It is reasonable to say that something in the order of 100 or 150 deaths per year from mesothelioma in women could in the future be due to asbestos levels in schools up to the 1960s and 1970s.It is a reasonable assumption that the same number of males as females are dying of mesothelioma caused by their asbestos exposure at school……………….It is a brutal thing, but costbenefit analysis must apply at some level. You cannot rebuild all the schools in Britain to prevent about 25 deaths a year. These are deaths that will occur predominantly over the age of 70. You have to remember that is the effect of childhood exposure. That is the brutal fact.

Professor Peto (Epidemiologist) Education Select Committee 13th March 2013

aib ceilingInspection initiatives in schools

HSE has undertaken sample inspections in the education sector to assess duty holder’s compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations. The findings of these initiatives have been published.

Asbestos management in school system buildings 2009/10

Asbestos management in schools outside of Local Authority Control 2010/11

Asbestos management in schools outside of Local Authority Control 2013/14

HSE has developed an Asbestos checklist for schools PDF. This checklist is based on the questions that formed part of the 2010/11 inspections, and will help schools to review their asbestos management arrangements. It asks key questions to help schools check if suitable precautions are in place, and to record any further action that is needed.

Managing asbestos in schools – Frequently asked questions

corridorRaising awareness

HSE works with stakeholders to support the development of school specific guidance and advice.  The Department for Education (DfE) have published guidance on managing asbestos in schools. This provides information and advice for those who manage schools or oversee the maintenance and repair of school buildings.  The guidance is aimed at head teachers, governors, and other members of the school management team, but will also be of interest to school staff.  Although the guidance has been produced for schools in England, it includes information and links to useful resources for schools and colleges across Great Britain.

scottish gov schools

school remove

Sue Stephens was a beloved primary school teacher for 30 years. She recently died from mesothelioma, an incurable and painful cancer that is caused by asbestos particles getting into the lungs.

To remove or not to remove?

Phased removal of all asbestos from schools is being advocated by some as a solution. A prioritised approach may be something the Government wishes to consider as a matter of public policy, but it cannot provide the quick fix to the legacy of asbestos use in GB.It is HSE’s view that the risks from asbestos in buildings must be actively managed – by preventing damage and disturbance, by removing ACMs that cannot be managed in situ, and by taking opportunities to remove ACMs when buildings are refurbished or replaced. The proactive removal of asbestos that is in good condition from well-managed buildings cannot be justified as being reasonably practicable under occupational health and safety legislation. Health and safety Executive 2013


Asbestos in the News: To Remove or not to Remove, that is the Question?

Further sources of  information:

DAVID BRIERLEY. ASBESTOS IN SCHOOLS An Update The Key Issues: Voice – the union for education professionals 8 May 2013. pdf







Asbestos in Schools – HSE – FAQ’s






Glasgow schools welcome back pupils with five-day janitor strike – The trade union highlight a variety of issues it considered detrimental to pupil and staff health. These include……asbestos logs not being completed for external contractors.

Contains public sector information published by the Health and Safety Executive and licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

Last updated 20 October 2016