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Managing Asbestos in Schools

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has updated information on managing asbestos in schools. The potential exposure of teachers and pupils to asbestos remains low but HSE is re-issuing the guidance to remind those responsible of their duties relating to the management of asbestos.

The government’s scientific advisory committee, WATCH, (Working Group on Action to Control Chemicals) recently examined the potential exposure of teachers to asbestos fibres from pinning or tacking children’s work to walls containing asbestos insulating board (AIB). This included a review of research carried out by the Health and Safety Laboratory (HSL).

WATCH concluded that the potential level of exposure created by this practice is low, but also concluded that inserting and removing drawing pins into AIB or other asbestos containing material is an avoidable practice. WATCH recommended that measures should be taken to communicate this message.

HSE has updated its current advice to schools to strengthen this message and will be working with the Department for Education and Skills, local authorities and other stakeholders to ensure the information is communicated to school governors, proprietors and head teachers.

John Cullen, Head of HSE’s Public Services Sector, said: “Teachers and pupils are not likely to be at risk in the course of their normal activities. Education employers should nevertheless ensure that they are aware of any asbestos in their schools and that they are actively managing it.”

Kevin Walkin, Head of Asbestos Policy at HSE, said: “Pinning work to walls or ceilings containing asbestos may release asbestos fibres. Although the potential exposure is low, such activities are avoidable and must stop. Local authorities and governing bodies will need to notify staff not to damage walls and ceilings in this way if asbestos is present.

“We’re not saying teachers can’t use drawing pins – but they need to be sure that they do not pin work to asbestos containing materials.

“The WATCH Committee findings are consistent with the duty to manage asbestos, which requires those responsible for premises to manage the risk from any asbestos present to prevent exposure to fibres.”

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