Many environmental, federal and state laws regulate asbestos containing materials (ACMs); however the federal Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) specifically covers asbestos management, disposal, and abatement in schools. AHERA requires schools to inspect all buildings for ACMs and to develop a asbestos management plan that details the exact location and condition of any asbestos on site. The act applies to all schools, public and private.
Each school is to have a designated, trained person who oversees the plan. Inspections are to be ongoing, occurring every three years, and updates recorded. Any “friable” asbestos is to be encapsulated, enclosed, or removed according to safety regulations and by trained professionals.
All inspections and actions must be documented. Notifications of any inspections or repair or removal work must be given to staff and parents. Everyone should have access to the asbestos management plan as well, which is also open to public review. If any work is to be performed that involves ACMs, only accredited abatement specialists can perform inspections and carry out any related work.
All employees are to be notified within a specified time period of any work being performed where ACMs are involved. Public schools are often regulated by state agencies, while private schools fall under OSHA, Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Precautions, such as closing off a section or access to a building during repairs, must be taken to prevent dust or debris contamination.
Everyone involved in the safety of the school and neighborhood should make sure that the district is complying with asbestos laws, especially during construction, renovation or demolition. For help with understanding what the exact regulations are for your state and school, contact your local OSHA or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) branch to see what the requirements are. Most important is that only licensed contractors perform work around ACMs so that custodial staff, unlicensed contractors, and those in the school community remain protected.