Managing asbestos in schools

This page provides information needed to assist schools meet their obligations under the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 (Regulations).


Building materials containing asbestos in schools were in widespread use in New Zealand and overseas until the 1980s because of its fire-resistant properties.

Where asbestos is left in place and is in good condition, it doesn't pose a significant health and safety risk. However, if it's disturbed during refurbishment, demolition, excavation, or due to deterioration, there's a risk of asbestos fibres becoming airborne and creating a health risk.

A-Z: Where asbestos is likely to be located — WorkSafe Publication [PDF, 39 KB]

Critical information for schools

The Regulations place a requirement on a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), such as schools, to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that all asbestos in schools is identified and if so, any risks arising from the asbestos are managed to eliminate or minimise exposure.

As the PCBU in control of the workplace (school), Boards of Trustees and School Principals have a responsibility for managing asbestos in their schools.

The Ministry has produced the following process flowcharts to help schools both on a day-to-day basis and when undertaking demolition or refurbishment projects.

Asbestos identification process [PDF, 351 KB]

Joint statement from the Ministry of Education and WorkSafe [PDF, 83 KB]

Specific duties and tasks are further outlined in the following checklists to assist principals and caretakers.

Asbestos management guide for Principals in schools [PDF, 329 KB]

Asbestos management guide for Caretakers and Property Managers [PDF, 324 KB]

Further information is also available on this page.

Day-to-day management requirements

The following steps should be followed by schools on a day-to-day basis.

1. Identify if asbestos is present

Identifying asbestos or ACM in the workplace is the first step for managing asbestos exposure risk.

Management and removal of asbestos — WorkSafe website(external link)

How to identify asbestos

  • If your building was built prior to 1 January 2000 it's likely to contain asbestos-containing material (ACM) and you could assume that your school building contains asbestos.
  • You could follow the WorkSafe Approved Code of Practice Guidance to identify what is likely to contain asbestos.
  • You could consider training your staff to better understand how to identify asbestos.
  • Or you can employ a surveyor to assess your building.

Where asbestos has been identified by a Surveyor or it's assumed to exist in a school, your school needs to have an asbestos management plan in place.

2. Producing an asbestos management plan

If you identify or assume the presence of asbestos in your school, an asbestos management plan is required. An asbestos management plan sets out how the identified asbestos or ACM will be managed.

You don't need to engage a surveyor to prepare your asbestos management plan. You can create your own asbestos management plan as long as you follow WorkSafe guidance.

Asbestos management plans — WorkSafe website(external link)

Asbestos management plan template [DOCX, 31 KB]

All asbestos management plans must be in writing. They can be in hard copy or electronic form, as long as the legally required information outlined above is included.

If the condition of the identified or assumed asbestos changes then you need to alter the Asbestos Management Plan accordingly.

3. Recording asbestos risks in your hazard and risk register

To ensure that any potential risks arising from asbestos are proactively managed, it's important that details are included in your school’s hazard and risk register and the information is maintained and updated.

The hazard and risk register should detail whether any asbestos or ACM has been identified or assumed. If so, it should refer to an Asbestos Management Plan which will contain detailed information about the location, condition, quantity and monitoring plan for asbestos or ACM. Ensure you monitor the area regularly and have a process in place in case unexpected asbestos is found.

You should provide the hazard and risk register to any contractors undertaking work within your school.

Hazard assessment register template (Tool 15)

4. Communicating asbestos information

Ensure asbestos information, including the Asbestos Management Plan and Hazard and Risk Register, is accessible to staff and provided to all contractors undertaking work at your school.

5. Monitoring asbestos condition

You should schedule regular inspections of asbestos or ACM and record any changes to the condition in your Asbestos Management Plan.

Refurbishment, demolition and excavation projects

Asbestos risks need to be managed in a consistent way during all property projects within schools.

The Ministry’s asbestos management process is designed to ensure the safety of all people who may be affected by asbestos works, including pupils, teachers, contractors, visitors and neighbours.

This process reflects good practice and ensures compliance with the Regulations and should be followed by schools and Boards when managing asbestos in schools.

If you're managing or involved in a project you must ensure the following Ministry requirements for asbestos removal steps are followed.

Ministry requirements for asbestos removal [PDF, 373 KB]

1. Conduct an asbestos refurbishment or demolition survey

When undertaking projects and associated works which are likely to disturb or damage asbestos, such as demolition, or refurbishment, work can't begin until an asbestos refurbishment or demolition survey is completed.

This is an intrusive inspection of the specific area that will be affected and will confirm whether asbestos or ACM is present.

The person conducting the asbestos survey must be a licensed asbestos assessor and needs to have sufficient training, qualifications, knowledge, experience and ability to sample and identify asbestos.

04 Asbestos surveyor competencies — WorkSafe website(external link)

The assessor should be briefed with a complete overview of the scope of work to be undertaken as part of the project. Samples must be analysed by an accredited laboratory.

The assessor must use appropriate Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) as a minimum. Consider how to provide and manage access to subfloor and ceiling spaces, particularly for buildings which are still in use.

Respiratory protective equipment — WorkSafe website(external link)

When commissioning an asbestos survey, ensure that the correct type of survey is conducted. A management type survey is not acceptable for refurbishment or demolition projects.

For Ministry-run construction projects, the Education Infrastructure Service will work with the school to identify and manage the presence of asbestos before and during the project.

2. Isolate the asbestos risk

If asbestos is identified or assumed to be present, and the condition of the material may pose a risk to health in its current form or if it's disturbed as a result of work about to commence, the work area should be isolated immediately and appropriate warning signage displayed until the risk has been effectively managed.

For more information about Asbestos and your health, visit the Ministry of Health website.

Hazardous substances: Asbestos(external link)

3. Removing asbestos

When you commission asbestos removal, you must ensure that the asbestos removal work is carried out by a licensed asbestos removalist. The licensed asbestos removalist you commission must prepare an Asbestos Removal Control Plan.

Licence holder register — WorkSafe website(external link)

Duties of a licensed asbestos remover — WorkSafe website(external link)

Ministry requirements for asbestos removal [PDF, 373 KB]

4. Communication and consultation

It's important to communicate to everyone who may be affected by the works. This includes:

  • the workers and any other people in the workplace
  • the person who commissioned the asbestos removal work
  • any person at or in the immediate vicinity of the workplace, for example neighbours along boundary fences
  • anyone occupying premises in the immediate vicinity of the workplace, for example after school care programmes.

Communications must clearly state:

  1. why the work is being undertaken
  2. what is involved with the work
  3. when it will start and finish, and
  4. the safeguards that will be in place during the works.

The following communications guidance has been prepared to help schools communicate clearly with all persons who may be affected by the works.

Communications guidance for asbestos management [PDF, 284 KB]

Template — Notice of asbestos removal work [DOCX, 51 KB]

5. Air monitoring

Air monitoring is required on all school projects, no matter the size or class of removal.

6. Obtain a clearance certificate and update the risk register

When any asbestos removal work is complete, you must ensure necessary clearances from an independent asbestos assessor are obtained before anyone not directly involved in the asbestos work can re-occupy the area.

You should also update the school’s asbestos information (both school and Ministry records), the hazard and risk register for the project site (if applicable), and the hazard and risk register for the school.

Paying for asbestos management

The cost of managing or removing asbestos safely is part of the project costs. If this causes a major overrun in the project’s budget, help may be available and you should speak to your property advisor.

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