Asbestos management

The safety of all people in schools where they might be affected by asbestos works is assured through implementation of the Ministry’s Asbestos Management Process.

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Building materials containing asbestos were in widespread use in New Zealand and overseas until the 1980s because of its fire-resistant properties.

Given the age of the school portfolio, asbestos or asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) might be present in many schools.

To ensure people are not exposed to the risk of airborne asbestos fibres, and to assist PCBUs involved (contractors, Boards of Trustees, and the Ministry) in meeting their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations ("the Regulations") the Ministry has prepared guidance to assist asbestos management in schools.

Asbestos and your health

The presence of asbestos is not itself a risk. Where asbestos is left in place and is in good condition, it does not pose a significant health and safety risk.

Asbestos and asbestos-containing materials become a health risk when they are disturbed, or where the material is deteriorating and fibres are released into the air.

For example, if asbestos is disturbed during refurbishment, demolition or excavation works, or as a result of deterioration, there is a risk of asbestos fibres becoming airborne and creating a health risk.

For more information about Asbestos and your health, visit the Ministry of Health website:

The school's health and safety responsibilities

The management of asbestos is specifically provided for in the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016. The Regulations focus on duties to prevent exposure to airborne respirable asbestos fibres.

Boards of trustees have a responsibility for managing asbestos in their schools, like any other hazards or risks.

To help schools and boards manage their risks (and to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 (external link) ) the 11 key components of an effective health and safety system for schools is outlined:

Identifying asbestos

Regulation 10 imposes a duty on PCBU’s with management or control of a workplace who knows or ought reasonably to know that there is a risk of exposure to respirable fibres in the workplace, must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that all asbestos or ACM giving rise to the risk at the workplace is identified.

In practice, this means that school Boards of Trustee’s need to determine whether asbestos or asbestos containing materials are present within their school buildings and assess the risk of exposure to respirable fibres.

There are different ways this can be done:

1. If your building was built prior to 1 January 2000 it may contain some form of asbestos containing material.

You could do one of the following:

  • If it is assumed that asbestos is not likely to be present, record this assumption in your risk register.
  • Using the WorkSafe Approved Code of Practice guidance: Management and Removal of Asbestos (external link) to identify what is likely to contain asbestos by conducting a visual inspection. This needs to be carried out by an experienced or competent person which could include your own staff who have undergone appropriate training. Staff should not damage the suspected asbestos in any way when making this determination and correct PPE should be worn. If:
    • Asbestos is assumed likely to be present, is in good condition and there is no risk of exposure to respirable fibres, you will need to prepare an Asbestos Management Plan; or
    • Asbestos is assumed likely to be present, or is found to be in poor condition and there is a risk of exposure to respirable fibres, you will need to commission an asbestos survey and take steps to eliminate or minimise the risk. This could include removing the asbestos (elimination of the risk) or minimising the risk by encapsulation or other methods.

2. You could decide not to make an assumption and employ a surveyor to assess and confirm whether asbestos is present in your buildings.

To find a surveyor, see "Current asbestos removal licence holders" on the Licence holder register (external link)  page of the Worksafe website.

Risk assessment

Regulation 9 requires that the PCBU with management or control of the workplace must ensure that:

  • exposure of a person to airborne asbestos is eliminated so far as is reasonably practicable; and
  • if it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate exposure, to minimise that exposure.

The following checklist outlines the actions you should take as a minimum to meet the requirements of Regulation 9:

Risk register

  • To ensure that any potential risks arising from asbestos are managed, it is important that details are included on the school’s hazard and risk register and the information is maintained and updated.
  • The risk register should detail whether any asbestos or ACM has been identified or assumed and if so, it should refer to an Asbestos Management Plan which will contain detailed information about the location, condition, quantity and monitoring plan for asbestos or ACM. Ensure you monitor the works or area regularly and have a process in place in case unexpected asbestos is found.
  • The risk register should be provided to any contractors undertaking work within schools.

Download template: Hazard Assessment Register [DOCX, 19 KB]

Isolate the risk

  • If asbestos is present (and it is confirmed that the condition of the material will either pose a risk to health in its current form or if it is disturbed as a result of work about to commence), the work area should be isolated immediately and appropriate warning signage displayed until the risk has been effectively managed.

Asbestos management plan

Where asbestos has been identified or is assumed to exist in a school building or buildings, the Regulations place a duty on schools as PCBUs to have an asbestos management plan in place.

If the condition of the identified or assumed asbestos changes then you would need to alter the Asbestos Management Plan accordingly.

An asbestos management plan sets out how the identified asbestos or asbestos-containing material will be managed.

An asbestos management plan must include information about:

  • Where the asbestos has been identified - specific location, including building element and elevation, eg. Classroom 2, Block C, external cladding, external elevations.
  • How you plan to manage the asbestos risks (remove it, encapsulate it with a false wall or paint, leave it alone as it is in good condition, etc).
  • What procedures you will follow when work is to be undertaken.
  • How you will record incidents or emergencies involving asbestos.
  • A timetable for managing asbestos exposure risks (eg. priorities and dates for removal, reviews, circumstances and activities that could affect the timing of action), which could be reviewed in, for example, 12 months, or after an incident or emergency.
  • Procedures, including a timetable for reviewing and (if necessary) revising the asbestos management plan and asbestos documentation (note at a minimum this must be every 5 years).

You do not need to engage a surveyor to prepare your asbestos management plan. You can create your own asbestos management plans as long as you follow WorkSafe NZ guidance: Asbestos Management Plans (external link) (WorkSafe website).

All asbestos management plans must be in writing. They can be in hard copy or electronic form, as long as the legally required information outlined above is included.

Download a template: Asbestos Management Plan template [DOCX, 653 KB]

Construction projects

The Ministry’s Asbestos Management Process is designed to ensure the safety of all people who may be affected by asbestos works - including pupils, teachers, contractors, visitors and neighbours.

The process reflects good practice and ensures compliance with the Regulations and should be followed by schools and Boards when managing asbestos in schools.

For Ministry-run construction projects, the Education Infrastructure Service will work with the school to identify and manage the presence of asbestos before and during the project.

Asbestos risks need to be managed in a consistent way during all property projects within schools.

Asbestos survey

When undertaking projects and associated works which are likely to disturb or damage asbestos (i.e. demolition, refurbishment or excavation), work cannot commence until an inspection of the specific area of the building, structure or soil that will be affected has been carried out to confirm whether asbestos or asbestos-containing material (ACM) is present.

If material cannot be identified but it is reasonably believed that it is asbestos or asbestos-containing material, you can assume the presence of asbestos.

The person procured to conduct asbestos surveys must be suitably qualified/certified to undertake asbestos sampling, testing and/or a survey report based on the work involved. See: Asbestos Surveyor Competencies (external link) (Worksafe website)

The surveyor should be briefed with a complete overview of the scope of work to be undertaken as part of the main project. Testing must be analysed by an accredited laboratory.

The person doing the inspection must use appropriate Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) as a minimum.

Consider how to provide and manage access to subfloor and ceiling spaces, particularly for buildings which are still in use.

When commissioning an asbestos survey, ensure that the correct type of survey is conducted.

Further information about different types of surveys can be found in Full Asbestos Management Process [PDF, 174 KB].

Prepare an Asbestos Management Plan

Refer to information above.

Removing Asbestos

When you commission asbestos removal, as a PCBU, you must ensure that the asbestos removal work is carried out by a licensed asbestos remover. The licensed asbestos remover you commission must prepare an "Asbestos Removal Control Plan”.

For all ministry-led projects, no matter the size or nature of removal, Asbestos Removal Control Plans must be provided to the EIS Health and Safety team for review and agreement prior to works commencing.

The Ministry follows good practice for all removals and enforces air monitoring on all Ministry-led projects, no matter the size or class of removal. It is recommended that Boards of Trustees follow Ministry processes in relation to air monitoring.

Communication and Consultation

It is important to communicate to everyone who may be affected by the works. This includes:

  • The PCBUs workers and any other people at the workplace.
  • The person who commissioned the asbestos removal work.
  • Any person at or in the immediate vicinity of the workplace (i.e. neighbours along boundary fences).
  • Anyone occupying premises in the immediate vicinity of the workplace (i.e. after school care programmes).

Communications must clearly state:

  1. Why the work is being undertaken
  2. What is involved with the work
  3. When it will start and finish
  4. The safeguards that will be in place during the works.

Use the Communications Guidance to help communicate clearly with your community:

Obtain a Clearance Certificate and update the Risk Register

When any asbestos removal work is finished, as a PCBU, you must ensure necessary clearances from an independent asbestos assessor are obtained before anyone not directly involved in the asbestos work can re-occupy the area.

You should also update the school’s asbestos information (both school and Ministry records), the risk register for the site (if applicable) and the more general risk register for the school.

Paying for asbestos management

The cost of managing or removing asbestos safely forms part of the project costs. If this causes a major overrun in a project budget, help may be available and you should speak to your School Property Advisor

See: Budget Plus and Unforeseen Work funding for school property work

Download full Asbestos Management Process

The full Asbestos Management Process provides a framework for dealing with asbestos from project scoping through to completion. Boards can also use the Asbestos Management Process as a guide when dealing with asbestos or ACMs found before or during board-run property projects.

Frequently asked questions and further information

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