Asbestos is considered by some to be a ticking time bomb for the education sector. From the mid-19th century to as recent as 1999, it was used extensively in buildings for its insulation properties.
Because of this, around 90% of schools in England still have asbestos present in at least one of their buildings, leaving children and teachers vulnerable to exposure to its dangerous fibres and to lethal diseases such as Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer.
The law now requires all education organisations to appoint a ‘Duty Manager’ whose responsibility it is to ensure asbestos is identified within their buildings and appropriately managed. This person is generally ‘the person in control of maintenance activities.’
Although many schools and academy trusts have a Duty Manager with the required experience to manage asbestos, in many cases – often the smaller schools and trusts – they do not. Plus, when schools become academies, they lose the support of the local authority as duty holder, which makes accessing the required expertise even more difficult.
This can all lead to poor asbestos management practices, which in turn can lead to fines for school leaders and increased risk for teachers and pupils. For example, in 2018, Kent County Council was fined £200,000 after a lack of duty management resulted in asbestos being disturbed in a primary school in Sittingbourne. Notwithstanding the financial penalties, prosecutions can also be enforced with the possibility of custodial sentences for such offences.
There are a number of defined processes that Duty Managers should implement to meet their responsibilities, and these include adopting a Senior Leadership approved Asbestos Management Plan, maintaining an Asbestos register, having defined procedures in place for Surveys (Management, Re-inspection and Refit & Refurb), and working with accredited contractors who can help advise, support and carry out relevant activities, remedial and analytical works.
As with most things in life, technology can now play a major role in helping schools and trust meet their obligations and protect staff and children.
At Sypro, we develop software to help organisations manage operational risk more effectively, and as part of our work with the education and emergency services sector, we have developed a comprehensive Asbestos Management platform. It provides schools and MATs with the workflows and processes to ensure they area able to carry out relevant surveys, maintain a compliant Asbestos Register and provide the organisations management teams with simple and effective real-time information to support their responsibilities.
If you’d like to discuss more about how our software can help your school or trust manage its asbestos obligations then please get in touch with us at email@example.com