Workplan 2013/14: Asbestos management in schools outside Local Authority control

SIM 07/2012/08


This guidance explains the 2013-14 programme of interventions targeting asbestos management in schools outside of Local Authority (LA) administration including:

  • Independent or fee-paying schools,
  • Foundation schools,
  • Voluntary Aided (VA) schools,
  • Academies, and
  • Free schools.


Supporting the Public Services Strategy and Education sector intervention plan to target resources at the real risks in schools, the purpose of the inspection programme is to:

  • determine the level of compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 in the targeted schools – in particular regulation 4 (Duty to manage – DTM);
  • determine school dutyholders' understanding of the precautions necessary to:
    • protect trades people from exposure to asbestos during building and refurbishment work;
    • ensure that such work does not expose school occupants to asbestos.
  • raise awareness of an on-line resource prepared by the Department for Education (DfE) for schools on Asbestos management.

Building on similar previous work it involves a programme of 150 inspections nationally (England, Scotland and Wales) during the 2013/14 work year.  This equates to 50 school inspections per FOD geographical division, including 10 inspections in Wales and 10 in Scotland.


Public Services Sector (PSS) has compiled a list of schools for the inspection programme at the start of the 2013-14 work year available internally via TRIM.  The schools have been selected to provide a random scientifically significant sample of a range of school types and no others should be visited in the programme.

Each FOD region should:

  • Arrange for DIOs to make initial telephone contact with the listed schools to check the age of the school premises.  DIO's should indicate that HSE are undertaking an initial sift for school inspections and if pressed refer the school to HSE's education web pages on asbestos management
  • Exclude from the programme any schools found not to have buildings constructed before 2000,
  • Forward details of these schools to public services sector email who will provide replacement schools.
  • Do not exclude schools with buildings constructed before 2000 who advise they have removed all asbestos from site
  • Identify from the lists provided by PSS 50 schools for inspection.

Inspectors should then:

  • Organise and conduct the inspections by appointment – timing the visit to ensure that members of the school management team and in-house maintenance staff are available
  • Complete a questionnaire (Appendix 1) in full at each visit
  • Return the completed questionnaire (and COIN case reference details) promptly to the OPSTD Public Services Sector Government, Defence and Education Team Bedford and attach a copy of it to the COIN inspection record.

At each visit inspectors should:

  • NOT seek to identify whether asbestos is present themselves but assess compliance with the duty to manage requirements (DTM)
  • explore and form a judgement on the management arrangements in place at the school by:
    • covering all the items addressed by the questionnaire
    • collecting information to confirm or otherwise that:
      • the school understands who is the legally responsible duty holder under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (see Appendix 2: School employers)
      • the location and condition of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) have been established;
      • there is an asbestos management plan in place;
      • the plan is being implemented, and
      • information, instruction and training have been provided to relevant employees and contractors who are liable to be exposed to asbestos.
  • In school visits in England – establish level of awareness of the DfE asbestos management guidance (use of this guidance by schools is not mandatory.  The guidance was developed with support from HSE).

If poor compliance is identified, inspectors may need to make further enquiries beyond the issues covered in the questionnaire

  • reviewing any further available relevant documentation,
  • enquiring about the responsibilities and competencies of the senior managers at the school eg Head teacher, Bursar, and the roles of those staff with control over day to day issues eg premises manager,
  • interviewing a selection of the identified responsible staff to test their understanding of their responsibilities and how they are discharging them


Asbestos in schools has to be managed in accordance with the regulations as it does in all workplaces – the standards to manage the risks arising from asbestos are well known and clear guidance is available for school management teams.

This programme does not include Local Authority-administered schools because this has been identified as a lower risk area where proactive inspection will no longer take place (Good Health and Safety, Good for Everyone – March 2011).  Other intervention approaches are used to influence the management of health and safety across local authorities.  As locally managed schools do not receive oversight from local authorities this further sample of inspections is planned to monitor whether these autonomous schools are complying with the Control of Asbestos Regulations.

If asbestos is properly managed and remains undamaged and undisturbed then its presence alone should not be a cause for concern. Teachers and pupils are not likely to be at risk in the course of their normal activities. This is an important message for school staff, pupils and their families.

Those most likely to be exposed to asbestos are tradesmen, including potentially school caretakers, who could disturb it through drilling, sawing and other maintenance or installation work.

Previous HSE inspection initiatives in schools have provided valuable intelligence on the level of compliance in both the LA and non-LA controlled sectors.  Key issues related to management arrangements specifically:

  • asbestos management plans
  • staff training
  • information to staff and trades personnel working on the fabric of school premises. 

The results from these inspection initiatives have been made available on the asbestos in education section of the HSE website.



Only the schools identified for Inspectors by the PSS Team are to be included in the programme.  This sample (provided by CSEAD) gives a representative number of schools from the different management types. Details of the schools are provided in a spreadsheet available internally via TRIM (TRIM ref No. 2013/72299). Details of the schools will be closed for Freedom of Information Act purposes and under the Environmental Information Regulations, until after the programme has been completed.


Visits should run from April 2013 to the end of December 2013. Follow up visits, for example to check compliance with notices, may go beyond this date. Completed questionnaires (either hard copy or scanned copies) including COIN case reference details should be returned promptly to the OPSTD Public Services Sector Government, Defence and Education Team Bedford by the end of January 2014 at the latest.


The FOD geographical divisions, will undertake 50 inspections each (150 in total).

DIO support for initial enquiries to confirm a schools inclusion as part of the inspection programme – one day per division.

A total of 75 days B3 Inspection contact time is anticipated (based on 0.5 days contact per visit). NB this does not take into account any non contact or follow up time for enforcement, etc. The questionnaire process should take approximately 1.5hrs to complete, depending on availability of supporting evidence and any subsequent follow on.

Recording & Reporting

Normal COIN work recording arrangements apply to this work.  Copies of the completed questionnaire should be attached to the COIN case record for the school. 

Inspectors are reminded that schools within this inspection programme are separate legal entities and should not be recorded as part of an LA.

Health & Safety

During these visits HSE staff should not be exposed to asbestos fibres. The only circumstances where staff may be at risk are when there are maintenance activities, refurbishment or other construction related work going on in the premises at the time of your visit. Inspectors should review the information on asbestos on the intranet under 'Your Health and Safety'.

Where the information suggests there may be disturbed ACMs then HSE staff should exercise extreme caution and not put themselves at risk. Inspectors should follow the guidelines contained in the relevant H&S policy supplement.

If you suspect material (eg lagging and insulation) is asbestos and is in poor condition do not enter any area where there is a risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. Action to deal with any immediate risks should be taken in line with OC 265/50.


Guidance on inspecting 'Faith schools' has been provided by Ofsted and provides useful pointers on appropriate etiquette.

Further References

Asbestos in system buildings:

DfE Guidance:


OPSTD Public Services Sector Government, Defence and Education Team, Rose Court, Bedford and Oxted.

Appendix 1:Questionnaire

Appendix 2

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