Who Is Responsible For Managing My School’s Asbestos?

 A search for an explanation of who is responsible for the management of asbestos in a school usually results in the answer, the “employer”.  Who is the “employer”? 

In the case of community schools, voluntary controlled schools, community special schools and pupil referral units the employer is the local authority (LA).  For academies, free schools, voluntary-aided and foundation schools it will be the school governors.  For independent schools, it will be the proprietor, governors or trustees.

However, a conversation with anyone involved in the business of advising schools on their asbestos management will tell you that the head teacher is ultimately accountable. While LAs are responsible for the maintenance of their school buildings, this is transferred to the ‘responsible person’ of each school as part of their health and safety policy. This will be the head teacher, the bursar, the premises office, the caretaker, site officer or school management team.  A spokesperson from the HSE clarified: “The head teacher is responsible unless he or she has nominated a member of staff to manage this on their behalf”.

In the event of an asbestos related incident, as happened this year at a school in Essex, it was the school trust that paid.   The school was fined £26,000 and ordered to pay £20,000 costs after poorly-planned and managed refurbishment and maintenance activities exposed school staff and others to asbestos.  The HSE commented that the trust “should have controlled this potentially lethal risk by identifying the type, location and condition of any asbestos-containing-materials within the fabric of the school, and by implementing suitable precautions to prevent its disturbance. It should then have ensured that such information was shared with anyone liable to disturb this fabric. It may also have arranged for a licensed asbestos contractor to remove any dangerous asbestos safely before commencement of any work.”


If you manage a school and are in any doubt, take responsibility yourself.  For example, you may know that there is already a management plan but are concerned that it is not current or sufficiently robust.  To comply with Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 as the ‘dutyholder’ you need to put on place practical steps necessary to protect students, teachers, parents and maintenance workers from the risk of exposure to asbestos. Global Environmental, specialises in asbestos management for schools and our technical team can help you assess your management plan, carry out a GAP analysis and advise you how to best discharge your legal obligations.

Paul Phillips is Operations Manager of asbestos consultancy, Global Environmental


To make an appointment call 01279 213600.


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