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For decades successive Governments’ have had a policy of asbestos management in schools rather than removal, for they claim that so long as the asbestos is not disturbed then it is safer to manage it rather than remove it. Regrettably that policy has failed
In a recent report, February 2017, published by the Education Funding Agency entitled Asbestos Management in Schools: Data Collection – using data collated directly from schools in England – a number of recommendations were identified as being of critical importance:
“It is critically important that all duty holders ensure that the schools within their responsibility which have or may have asbestos contained in any of their buildings have:
• a senior member of staff or member of the governing body designated as responsible for the management of asbestos;
• an asbestos management plan which is updated annually, or when there is reason to suspect circumstances have changed;
• an asbestos management survey and asbestos register
• processes and procedures in place detailing the control measures to prevent disturbance of any known asbestos-containing materials noting that some asbestos might be hidden in the fabric of the building
Scottish government response to Neil Bibby MSP regarding the prevalence of asbestos in our schools ( 31 October 2019)
Asbestos (School Buildings)
3. Neil Bibby (West Scotland) (Lab):
To ask the Scottish Government how many primary and secondary school buildings contain asbestos. (S5O-03695)
The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (John Swinney):
That information is not held centrally. However, local authorities are required to keep an up-to-date record of the location of asbestos in their school buildings.
Although health and safety legislation is reserved to the United Kingdom Government, we take the issue of asbestos in schools very seriously and expect local authorities to strictly follow Health and Safety Executive recommendations on the handling of asbestos.
It is of concern that the Deputy First Minister could not tell us how many school buildings contain asbestos. I can tell him that, according to information obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, asbestos is present in more than 1,600 school buildings.
Would the Deputy First Minister agree that there is a strong case for more regular air sampling on the school estate? Would he agree to meet Clydeside Action on Asbestos, trade unions, my colleague, Anas Sarwar, and me to discuss what further action can be taken to ensure that, where asbestos is present, fibre counts are kept at safe levels for children and staff?
Those are important questions and I would be happy to meet Mr Bibby, Mr Sarwar, Clydeside Action on Asbestos and the relevant trade unions that have an interest in the matter. In my earlier answer, I made it clear that there are very strict requirements under health and safety legislation on the handling and management of asbestos. That obligation falls on local authorities, which have the statutory duty for the management of the school estate. I expect all local authorities to follow all those requirements to the full. I am happy to meet the members to discuss the issue further.
Scottish government response to the danger of asbestos in our schools ( September 2015)
Duty 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
Last updated: 7 November 2019
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