Asbestos which is identified in any school property is regarded so seriously, that the Ministry of Education takes the lead on dealing with it responsibly and safely. The best help a parent can offer his or her children, is to have a good understanding of how the Ministry and the local school management deal with asbestos contamination in schools.
Parents can pass some simple rules on to the children so that children and asbestos never make contact:
- Do whatever your teacher tells you because it is very important that you be kept safe.
- You cannot see asbestos but it is very dangerous- like a bad germ you can’t see but very dangerous if it gets into your body.
- As long as you listen to your teacher and do what they say, you will be quite safe.
Parents, however, naturally want to know more than this, so below is a summary of how the Ministry of Education addresses any evidence of asbestos on a school property.
But first, here are two questions any parent can ask of school management which will help understanding:
1. Does this school need an asbestos management plan? (If the school was built after the year 2000, it is more unlikely that any asbestos is contained in the buildings of the school).
But if the school has asbestos within the structure:
2. What can I do as a parent to help the day-to-day work of that plan?
The school itself, will be doing a number of things to protect its population of students and teachers:
- Every school in New Zealand which has asbestos content within its boundaries, is required to have its own asbestos management plan (from April 2018). This can be made available to any parent who wishes to understand it.
- Asbestos material which has the potential to become dangerous is removed out of school hours by expert asbestos removalists- and most often, when school is closed.
- The Ministry of Education removes all asbestos identified during refurbishment or during any demolition works in the school. This is also carried out when the school is closed.
- However, there are some circumstances where it is necessary for asbestos removal projects to take place during school time. In this instance, a full risk assessment is carried out by the Ministry to ensure the safety of everyone in the school and vicinity.
- Protective clothing, as required by regulations, is just one of the many control measures in place to protect workers who are carrying out, or working within the vicinity of, asbestos removal in a school.
- The methods employed for removing asbestos in schools will ensure asbestos fibres do not get into the air.
- There is continual air monitoring for asbestos on the school boundary to check that no asbestos fibres are being released
Detailed asbestos removal works
Some of the controls you should expect to see in any school where asbestos needs to be removed, include:
- Fencing with a dust protection cloth,
- Air monitors around the boundaries which will be checked every day
- Setting up exclusion zones around the construction area
- Continual air monitoring on each perimeter boundary with daily review of results
- Stopping all construction vehicles from moving around the school during pickup and drop off times
- Keeping contaminated soil damp while the material is removed
- Windows on any adjacent classrooms being kept closed and sealed/taped
- Staff assigned to assist with traffic management around the site
- All trucks are covered and pass through wheel wash down before leaving site
- Regular liaison with the school management to keep school informed of activities and address any issues (particularly around school events)
- Ensure site is safe and secure at the end of each work shift by fitting chain and lock to the security fence.
Once removal is complete, an inspection is carried out by an independent licensed asbestos assessor before the area can be certified for reoccupation.
The Ministry has a duty to inform the school of any asbestos removal works. This includes, staff, students, parents, neighbours, members of the public and any other person who may be impacted by the works.
For more information on asbestos in schools, check out Worksafe's website 'Information for schools, education providers and clubs'