Assessment finds ‘high risk’ asbestos in schools

Bonners Primary School at Maresfield is one of those on the list. Image: Google Maps
Bonners Primary School at Maresfield is one of those on the list. Image: Google Maps

Ten schools in the county contain ‘high risk’ asbestos, according to East Sussex County Council.

It carried out an assessment of each school in the county and gave them a ranking between one and 12 – with 12 being the highest.

Those that carry the council’s ‘red’ marker, indicating the highest risk factors from 10-12, are primary schools Ashdown (Herne Road, Crowborough); Bonners (Maresfield); Chailey; Chantry (Bexhill); Cradle Hill (Seaford); Manor (Uckfield); Northiam; and Southover (Lewes).

Senior schools listed are Uckfield Community College and Robertsbridge Community College.

The council said: “We are committed to providing a safe and healthy environment for pupils to learn and for employees to work. As such, we take our responsibilities in relation to asbestos management very seriously.

“All our schools have been surveyed for asbestos and adhere to an asbestos management plan.

“Where asbestos containing materials are identified in any of our buildings they are removed or encapsulated through a controlled and managed process to minimise risk.”

The spokesman continued: “The council allocates money each year for statutory compliance works and survey programmes, including asbestos surveys and associated works.”

To ascertain whether an area of asbestos is classed as ‘high risk’, a risk assessment is carried out which looks at the type, condition and location of the asbestos.

In terms of type of asbestos, according to the council, ‘blown’ asbestos – loose fibres of the type historically used for lagging pipes – is more of a risk than asbestos that is encapsulated within a building element such as ceiling or floor tiles.

If asbestos starts to deteriorate or degrade, or has been damaged, its condition would be classed as more high risk than asbestos which is in a good condition.

The council said any asbestos of high risk and in an easily accessible area such as school classrooms, hallways and offices would be removed.

Management surveys are carried out on all buildings constructed before 2000, where asbestos could be present.

Where asbestos is deemed by the surveyor to be ‘high risk’, it is usually recommended for removal, and this is undertaken by the county council, but sometimes it cannot be removed and has to be managed due to its location.

For example, asbestos behind a boiler in a boiler room may be managed and regularly checked as it is not practical to remove until the boiler is replaced. Access to this area would be restricted to people carrying out services, who would be made aware when signing in to access the area, to take necessary precautions.

The council spokesman added: “Under regulations, we only have a legal duty to carry out one management survey and manage identified asbestos. ESCC made the decision to carry out more regular management surveys to ensure we are properly managing the risk.”