Schools: Asbestos

Department for Education written question – answered on 23rd March 2017.

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Photo of Lord Alton of Liverpool Lord Alton of Liverpool Crossbench

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the responses made by local authorities to freedom of information requests made by Lucie Stephens regarding reported incidents of asbestos exposure in schools; and what guidance they have given, or plan to give, to local authorities about the publication of such reports.

Photo of Lord Nash Lord Nash The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education

The Department takes the issue of asbestos in schools very seriously. The evidence from the freedom of information requests of incidents of asbestos disturbance in schools, reported by local authorities, demonstrates exactly why the Department is committed to supporting and challenging schools, local authorities and academy trusts to fulfil their responsibility to manage asbestos safely in their schools.

We have recently updated and improved our published guidance for schools, which clearly states that if accidental exposure to asbestos has occurred, the duty holder must inform the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). This is a legal requirement and the HSE may investigate if major issues are raised where a duty holder’s compliance with their legal duties is called into question. The guidance also provides information for duty holders on the consequences of not complying with regulations and is available to all local authorities and schools.

We also recently carried out a data collection in schools on how they manage asbestos to understand how they were complying with their duties, and have published the findings. In future we plan to seek further assurances from duty holders to ensure that asbestos management is compliant with legislation and guidance across their education estates.

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