Managing asbestos in schools

This guidance provides schools with processes, resources and regulations for dealing with asbestos.

Level of complianceMain audienceOther

Required

  • Boards
  • Principals and Tumuaki
  • Proprietors
  • General Staff/Administrators
  • Teachers
  • Health and Safety Officer(s)

The Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 places a requirement on a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), such as Boards and Principals, to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that all asbestos in schools is identified and if so, any risks arising from the asbestos are managed to eliminate or minimise exposure.

Overview

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

Where asbestos is left in place and is in good condition, it does not pose a significant health and safety risk. However, if it is disturbed during refurbishment, demolition, excavation, or due to deterioration, there is a risk of asbestos fibres becoming airborne and causing potential health problems for anyone who may inhale the particles. Asbestos is a proven human carcinogen, all forms of asbestos can cause cancer.

We have provided helpful web resources and downloadable templates for schools to use that can be found at the end of this guidance.

Critical information for schools

The Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 place a requirement on a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), such as schools, to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that all asbestos in schools is identified and if so, any risks arising from the asbestos are managed to eliminate or minimise exposure.

As the PCBU in control of the workplace (school), Boards, Proprietors and School Principals have a responsibility for managing asbestos in their schools.

Day-to-day management requirements

The following steps should be followed by schools on a day-to-day basis. Identifying any potential asbestos is the first step to managing exposure risk.

  1. Identify if asbestos is present
  2. Create an asbestos management plan
  3. Record any risks in your hazard and risk register
  4. Communicate asbestos information
  5. Monitor the condition of the asbestos.
Daily management of asbestos         
Identify any asbestos risk

Is your building built prior to 1 January 2000? If yes, it is likely to contain asbestos and you could assume that your school building could be exposed to risk.

How to help identify risks in your school:

Create an asbestos management plan

If you, or a surveyor identify or assume the presence of asbestos in your school, an asbestos management plan(external link) is required.

  • An asbestos management plan sets out how the identified asbestos or ACM will be managed.
  • A surveyor does not need to be engaged in order to prepare a management plan.
  • You can create your own asbestos management plan as long as it follows WorkSafe guidance.

Management plans must:

  • be in writing either in hard copy or electronic form
  • contain the legally required information outlined on the WorkSafe website
  • be updated if the condition of the identified or assumed asbestos changes.

 

Download the Worksafe template:

Record asbestos risks in your hazard and risk register

Proactively manage any risks by using your hazard assessment register. Ensure the information is maintained and updated.

  • The hazard register should provide details about assumed or identified asbestos or ACM.
  • For identified asbestos or ACM, it should refer to an asbestos management plan which will contain detailed information about the location, condition, quantity and monitoring plan.
  • Monitor and record risk areas regularly and have a process in place in case unexpected asbestos is found.
Communicate asbestos information Ensure all asbestos information, including the asbestos management plan and hazard register, is accessible to staff and provided to all contractors undertaking work at your school.
Monitor the condition of asbestos  You should schedule regular inspections of asbestos or ACM and record any changes to the condition in your asbestos management plan.

Refurbishment, demolition and excavation 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. It reflects good practice and ensures compliance with the Regulations.

  1. Conduct an asbestos refurbishment or demolition survey
  2. Isolate the asbestos risk
  3. Removing the asbestos
  4. Communication and consultation
  5. Air monitoring
  6. Obtain a clearance certificate and update the risk register

This process should be followed by schools and Boards when managing asbestos hazards. They must also follow the Ministry requirements for asbestos removal(external link) steps.

Key to note

When undertaking any works which are likely to disturb or damage asbestos, such as demolition or refurbishment, work cannot begin until an asbestos refurbishment or demolition survey is completed.

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

Paying for asbestos management

The cost of managing or removing asbestos safely is part of the project costs. If this causes a major overrun in the project’s budget, help may be available and you should speak to your property advisor.

The management process

Conduct an asbestos refurbishment or demolition survey

This is an intrusive inspection of the specific area that will be affected and will confirm whether asbestos or ACM is present.

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

  • A management type survey is not acceptable for refurbishment or demolition projects.
  • Plan for how to manage access to subfloor and ceiling spaces, particularly for buildings which are still in use.
  • Prepare a complete overview of the scope of work to brief the survey assessor. They should also receive the details from your hazard register.

The survey must be done by a licensed asbestos assessor:

Find the related Asbestos surveyor competencies(external link) on the WorkSafe website.

Isolate the asbestos risks

If asbestos is identified or assumed to be present, and the condition of the material may 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.

Removing asbestos 

Asbestos removal work must be carried out by a licensed asbestos remover. They must prepare and deliver an asbestos removal control plan.

Communication and consultation 

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

This includes:

  • the workers and any other people in the workplace
  • the person who commissioned the asbestos removal work
  • any person at or in the immediate vicinity of the workplace, for example neighbours along boundary fences
  • anyone occupying premises in the immediate vicinity of the workplace, (e.g. 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, and
  4. the safeguards that will be in place during the works.
Air monitoring  Air monitoring is required on all school projects, no matter the size or class of removal.
Obtain a clearance certificate and update the risk register

When any asbestos removal work is complete, 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 hazard and risk register for the project site (if applicable), and the hazard and risk register for the school.

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