Asbestos management is crucial for universities and schools because asbestos is a known health hazard. When asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged, microscopic fibres can be released into the air and inhaled, causing serious respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Asbestos was commonly used in building materials before the 1980s, meaning that many schools and universities built before this time may still contain asbestos-containing materials. Thus, proper management and control of asbestos is essential to ensure the health and safety of students, teachers, and staff in educational institutions. Failure to manage asbestos effectively can lead to legal liabilities, financial costs, and negative publicity for the university or school.
What is Asbestos and why is it dangerous?
Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals that have been widely used in construction, manufacturing, and other industries due to their durability, heat resistance, and insulating properties. The most commonly used types of asbestos are chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite.
It’s dangerous because its fibres are microscopic and can easily become airborne when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed or damaged. When these fibres are inhaled, they can become lodged in the lungs and other parts of the respiratory system, causing serious health problems such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.
These diseases can take years or even decades to develop after exposure to asbestos, and there is no known cure for them. Even low levels of exposure to asbestos can be hazardous, and prolonged exposure increases the risk of developing asbestos-related diseases.
Due to its dangerous health effects, many countries have banned or severely restricted the use of asbestos in recent years. However, asbestos-containing materials are still present in many older buildings, including schools and universities, which is why it is essential to have proper asbestos management plans in place to ensure the safety of building occupants.
What does an asbestos management plan for universities and schools include?
An asbestos management plan for universities and schools is a document that outlines the strategies and procedures that will be implemented to manage ACMs present in buildings on their premises. The plan is developed to ensure that ACMs are safely managed, maintained, and monitored to prevent the release of hazardous asbestos fibres into the air and to protect the health and safety of building occupants, including students, teachers, and staff.
The asbestos management plan typically includes the following elements:
Identification of ACMs
A comprehensive survey is conducted to identify all ACMs present in the buildings. This includes collecting samples of suspected materials for laboratory analysis to confirm their asbestos content.
The asbestos-containing materials are assessed for their potential to release asbestos fibers into the air if disturbed, damaged, or deteriorated. This assessment helps to determine the priority of actions required to manage the risks.
The plan outlines the control measures that will be implemented to prevent the release of asbestos fibers into the air. This includes measures such as encapsulation, sealing, or removal of the ACMs.
Monitoring and maintenance
The plan outlines the procedures that will be implemented to monitor and maintain the ACMs to ensure their continued safety. This includes regular inspections, air monitoring, and maintenance of records.
Training and communication
The plan includes provisions for training and communication to ensure that all relevant personnel, including maintenance staff and contractors, are aware of the presence of ACMs and are trained in the safe handling and management of these materials.
The plan outlines the procedures to be followed in the event of an accidental release of asbestos fibres or other emergency situations.
By having an asbestos management plan in place, universities and schools can minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres, ensure compliance with legal requirements, and protect the health and safety of building occupants.
How are asbestos surveys used in universities and schools?
Asbestos surveys are an essential part of asbestos management in universities and schools. An asbestos survey is a systematic inspection and assessment of a building to identify the presence, location, and condition of ACMs.
The surveys are used in universities and schools to:
- Identify ACMs present in the buildings. The surveyors take samples of suspected materials for laboratory analysis to confirm their asbestos content.
- Assess the risks by analysing the condition and potential of the ACMs to release asbestos fibres into the air if disturbed, damaged, or deteriorated. This assessment helps to determine the priority of actions required to manage the risks.
- Plan for safe management, as the results of the survey are used to develop an asbestos management plan that outlines the strategies and procedures that will be implemented to manage the identified ACMs safely.
- Prioritise actions required to manage the risks associated with the identified ACMs. For example, if a material is in poor condition and likely to release asbestos fibres into the air, it may be recommended for removal, encapsulation, or sealing.
- Ensure compliance with legal requirements. In universities and schools, surveys are conducted to comply with legal requirements and to ensure that they meet their duty of care to protect the health and safety of building occupants.
Overall, asbestos surveys are used to ensure the safety of building occupants and to comply with legal requirements. By identifying the presence and condition of ACMs, universities and schools can implement appropriate control measures to minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.
What are the legal requirements for the asbestos management of universities and schools?
The legal requirements for asbestos management in universities and schools in Australia are governed by the Work Health and Safety (WHS) laws in each state and territory. These laws require universities and schools to manage asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) on their premises in a safe and responsible manner.
The specific legal requirements for asbestos management in universities and schools may vary slightly across different jurisdictions, but generally, they include the following:
- Universities and schools must have an asbestos register, which is a document that lists all the asbestos-containing materials present on the premises. The register must be reviewed and updated regularly.
- Universities and schools must have an asbestos management plan, which is a document that outlines how ACMs will be managed safely on the premises. The plan must be reviewed and updated regularly, and schools and universities must ensure that all staff and students are aware of the plan and trained in how to work safely with asbestos.
- Universities and schools must have an asbestos removal control plan, which is a document that outlines how ACMs will be removed safely from the premises. The plan must be reviewed and updated regularly.
- Universities and schools must ensure that anyone who may be exposed to asbestos is trained in how to work safely with asbestos. This includes staff, students, and contractors.
- Universities and schools must notify anyone who may be exposed to asbestos on the premises of the location and presence of the ACMs.
- Universities and schools must assess the risks associated with the presence of ACMs on the premises and take appropriate steps to manage those risks.
- If ACMs need to be removed from the premises, they must be removed and disposed of safely in accordance with the relevant regulations and guidelines.
What is the best software for asbestos management in universities and schools?
Octfolio is asbestos management software that contains all of the tools you need to record and track ACMs present in any building, including universities and schools. This includes comprehensive asbestos registers, as well as other important asbestos management functions including;