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Importance of Dealing With Asbestos in Schools

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Rap Interiors

n recent news it was discovered that incredibly harmful asbestos had been found in a myriad of schools run by Kent County Council, according to a report by Kent Messenger. There were 346 schools reported that contained asbestos, which is lethal for not only the school staff but the students as well.
In every form of build containing asbestos there are dangers and people in the building responsible for dealing with the issues, but is everyone from schools to contractors aware of the dangers and responsibilities?What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that has been used for centuries because of its fire resistant properties, as well as heat insulating and sound dampening. It was commonly used in buildings because of these properties, however in 1999 it was banned due to major health risks it carried.
It’s a common mistake for people to assume that all asbestos is the same, however this is not the case. There are actually six types of asbestos to identify in a building: Chrysotile, Amosite & Crocidolite, Tremolite, Anthophyllite and Actinolite.Chrysotile: Chrysotile is a white form of asbestos with curly fibres that are reminiscent of cotton. It was great for reinforcing building products but because of the serious health risks it came with it was banned in 1999.
Amosite: Amosite is a brown form of asbestos that is strong and spiky. It was mostly used for preventing condensation and its acoustic benefits, found commonly around structured steel. However due to asbestos import bans of the mid-80s it is no longer used in builds.
Crocidolite: Crocidolite is a blue form of asbestos and has been described to have needle like fibres. It is the strongest form of asbestos, as well as the most lethal. Because of its lethality the use of it was restricted by asbestos guidelines in 1969 and eventually banned in the mid-80s alongside amosite.
Tremolite: Tremolite can vary in colours from: brown, white, green, and grey. This type of asbestos is not found in buildings on their own, but rather within other minerals as a means to contaminate. Tremolite is found in vermiculite, talc and Chrysotile.
Anthophyllite: Anthophyllite is similar to Tremolite in the sense that it was not solely used for building purposes, and come in forms of: white, grey and brown fibres. It’s found in vermiculite and talc but unlike Tremolite it is not found in Chrysotile.
Actinolite: Actinolite is a dark green asbestos that looks similar to dark green crystals and just like Tremolite and Anthophyllite, are found as a contaminant as opposed to being used a resource. In the past it’s been found in: paints, toys and sealants.Dangers of Asbestos
Asbestos can release fibres that attack the lungs, which can cause major scarring and opens up risks to several lung diseases. It can lay dormant from any time between 15 and 50 years, which means that it will cause issues with the lungs later on down the line. When exposed to asbestos it can cause: asbestosis, pleural thickening, mesothelioma and lung cancer.
It’s estimated that five thousand people die from diseases connected to asbestos every year, but because of its ability to lay dormant it means that the exposure was most likely before the asbestos ban.
Where is Asbestos Typically Found?
Asbestos is commonly found anywhere that would need some form of insulation or fire prevention, usually in buildings where builds were completed before the 2000s. Where this was commonplace it means that there are plenty of areas it could be in.
The places asbestos is most commonly found in are: ceilings, flooring, wall partitions, fire doors, boilers, pipes and toilets. Asbestos can also be found outside of the school build, most commonly in the cement used in: roofs, panels and gutters.Who’s Responsible for Asbestos in Schools?
According to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, those responsible for the maintenance and repair of the school building fall accountable for the management of asbestos. This can vary depending on the type of school. For example academies and free schools are held accountable by their governing body, while community schools and pupil referral units come under local authority.
Whoever the school governing body is has a responsibility to not just protect teachers and pupils from harm but also any other visitors. If the governing body is aware of asbestos in the building, information should be given to anyone that may disturb it. This includes: caretakers, support staff, teachers & contractors. This falls under the Health and Safety at Work act 1974.What Can Schools Do To Reduce Risks?
Keeping Record:
Keeping a record of your asbestos records is a sure way of reducing the risks of staff, students and visitors from being exposed to asbestos. This is especially important to do if the school was built prior to the year 2000, due to the asbestos ban being put in place at that time.
If your school was built after the year 2000 it’s unlikely to have asbestos, but it’s still best to check in case asbestos was unlawfully used in the school build. Your building may also have asbestos if it was previously a brownfield site or has old equipment in it.
Asbestos Surveys:
Asbestos surveys cover the identification of asbestos within the school interiors. This means if there are plans for school refurbishment works then the governing body can make the fit out contractor aware of this. This can minimise the risk of asbestos being uncovered and disturbed.
There are two different types of asbestos surveys: management surveys and refurbishment/ demolition surveys.
Formerly known as type 2 asbestos surveys, management surveys involve checking the condition of the asbestos regularly to ensure that it is not a health risk to anybody in the school. This means that the asbestos is maintained as opposed to being removed.Replacing the type 3 asbestos survey, a refurbishment/ demolition surveys are usually carried out when the space is going to undergo a school refurbishment. Although an asbestos surveyor needs to be present here, a record of the asbestos’ condition isn’t necessary here.
Asbestos Registers:
An asbestos register is the next step after the initial asbestos survey. It goes into much more detail about where the asbestos is located and should contain risk assessments for areas where the asbestos may be.
Asbestos registers are usually updated between 6 months to a year, in order to assess the damage that may have occurred over time. When school refurbishment works have been conducted the areas where asbestos has either been removed or encapsulated should still be regularly checked.
Asbestos Management Plan:
An asbestos management is the final step to dealing with asbestos in your current school interiors. It will help determine what the best way to deal with the asbestos is, whether it be through encapsulation or removal.It also helps put a point in contact in place, as the plan should detail who is responsible for dealing with asbestos related instances. The asbestos management plan should be regularly updated alongside the asbestos register and surveys, in order to keep track on the risks and conditions of the asbestos in the school interiors.Picking the Right School Fit Out Contractor
When picking a fit out contractor it’s important they’re experienced in covering every need of the school environment. Referring back to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, asbestos management and removal has to be carried out by a licensed contractor.
There are a small portion of asbestos works that can be carried out by unlicensed contractors, but this still needs appropriate and effective controls. This is why it’s so important that schools have a contractor that’s both experienced and accredited; in order for the school environment to be safe for learning.
If you’re undergoing a school refurbishment you need an experienced fit out contractor who can meet all the special needs of the school interiors, not just regarding asbestos but the entire process.
Our Health & Safety manager Amanda Carter specialises in asbestos awareness as well as a myriad of other health & safety expertise. This makes us more than qualified to deal with any issues risks and problems that may come to fruition prior to your school refurbishment.
Rap Interiors Ltd
Rap Interiors have almost three decades of experience in transforming school spaces with a hands-on approach to school design and refurbishment. We’ll ensure that your school space is in safe hands and that the refurbishment process runs as smoothly as possible.
Amanda Carter
Health & Safety Manager, Rap Interiors
Need a school refurbishment with a seamless process?
Contact us on 0333 600 1234 or email us on refurb@rapinteriors.co.uk