A guide to managing asbestos

Issue: Volume 103, Number 8

Posted: 27 June 2024
Reference #: 1HAh2B

Did you know that buildings built before 1 January 2000 are likely to contain asbestos? Education Gazette reports on how schools with asbestos-containing materials can manage risks to health and safety.

Health risks from materials containing asbestos are low if those materials are kept in good condition and left undisturbed.

Health risks from materials containing asbestos are low if those materials are kept in good condition and left undisturbed.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral made up of lots of strong small fibres. Until the late 1990s, it was used frequently in building materials because of its fire resistance, insulation properties, durability, and low cost.

Due to the age of many school buildings across the country, asbestos is present in the materials used to build many of our schools. These materials include roofing, external wall cladding, vinyl floor coverings, thermal insulation to pipework and decorative coatings.

A low health risk  

It may come as a surprise to some, but when materials containing asbestos are kept in good condition and undisturbed, health risks are low because they are unlikely to release airborne fibres that can easily be inhaled.

However, it’s important to make sure asbestos-containing materials are clearly identified so they can be managed properly.

To help with this, the Ministry of Education property team has put together some tips to help identify asbestos and make sure asbestos-containing materials are kept undisturbed and in good condition. 

Tips for managing asbestos 

Identify areas with asbestos-containing material and create a register

Engage the services of a qualified and experienced asbestos surveyor to identify any areas in the school where asbestos is present. They can help you create a register and determine the condition of the materials as well as share their advice on how to properly manage it.

Have an asbestos management plan and keep it up to date

Include all findings from the register in your school’s asbestos management plan, and make sure that you update your plan regularly (that is, every time the situation/condition of an asbestos-containing material changes).

If you’re doing construction or maintenance work, make sure that your contractor has seen your asbestos management plan

Before starting any construction or maintenance job, the contractor should pay attention to the asbestos register, the site plans and any photographs relevant to the location where they will be conducting work. If your asbestos management plan indicates that the building under construction may have asbestos, the contractor will need to investigate and complete a demolition or refurbishment survey. If you need to, update your asbestos register and management plan.

Be careful washing school buildings

Never use high-pressure sprays to clean asbestos-containing materials. High-pressure sprays can damage the material and potentially lead to unwarranted asbestos contamination. Under the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016, an individual or business can be heavily fined for using high-pressure water spray or compressed air on asbestos-containing materials.

To wash down school buildings, use a soft brush instead of high-pressure water blasting. Never wash unsealed asbestos – unsealed asbestos needs to be painted or protected first.

If asbestos removal work is required, get a specialist involved

You will need a licensed asbestos removalist to prepare and deliver an asbestos removal control plan. The plan will outline how they will go about removing asbestos-containing materials, how they will keep everyone in and around the site healthy and safe, and how the asbestos will be disposed of.

Once the asbestos work is completed, hire an independent licensed asbestos assessor to inspect the finished job and issue a clearance certificate.

Information, resources, and guidance

Use the following information, resources and guidance to manage asbestos and make sure you are keeping everyone safe. 

See the Ministry’s property maintenance guide(external link).

Find useful information about asbestos in schools(external link).

WorkSafe(external link) information about asbestos.

Health New Zealand(external link) information about asbestos.

If you have more questions about the management of asbestos or need help with your asbestos removal control plan, email

Winter property maintenance for schools

Mould and fungi grow more easily during the winter season because of higher moisture levels in the air. Here are four things you can do to prevent mould
build up in your school this winter:

  • Keep gutters clear and check regularly for possible leaks.
  • Reduce moisture build up by opening windows whenever possible or using dehumidifiers.
  • Regularly clean surfaces that get wet or show signs of condensation, such as joinery, window and door frames.
  • Check interior surfaces for mould – remove it as soon as possible, ideally while it’s still wet.

Download the Ministry of Education’s guide to mould mitigation and management(external link) to learn more about cleaning to prevent mould in schools.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 11:24 am, 27 June 2024

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