Asbestos is a naturally occurring, hazardous mineral that has historically been used in construction materials such as floor tiles and drywall because of its effective insulation properties. However, asbestos has been found to be hazardous to human health. Asbestos exposure can lead to a number of long-term, life-threatening illnesses including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis.
Due to the dangers associated with asbestos and its prevalence in building construction, local and federal governments have taken steps to regulate the material to protect public health. Most public and private buildings, including schools, built before the 1980s contain asbestos. Because of the risk to vulnerable populations, schools must have a consistent and effective management plan to reduce the risks associated with asbestos.
Is Asbestos Banned?
After several attempts by congress to officially ban the use of asbestos in commercial products, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented the Asbestos Ban and Phase-Out Rule in 1989 which would have banned the use of asbestos entirely from future manufacturing; however, the bill was struck down and replaced with softer regulations.
Despite the well-known dangers, asbestos remains legal in the United States and organizations such as the EPA continue to take steps to enforce safety regulations and limit the harmful effects of asbestos exposure.
What Is an Asbestos Management Plan?
An asbestos management plan is a documented plan developed and implemented by public building officials to prevent and reduce risk to the general public.
Asbestos in schools is a serious health and safety concern for students, teachers, and staff. Therefore, non-profit schools and school districts must develop and provide a transparent management plan to properly identify, manage, and potentially remove asbestos containing materials (ACM) to protect students and faculty from the harmful, and even deadly, health effects of asbestos exposure.
Are Asbestos Management Plans in Schools Regulated?
After the approval of the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) in 1986, both public and non-profit schools are required to have a clear asbestos management plan to survey, identify, manage, and, in some cases, remove asbestos on the property.
They are also required to thoroughly and accurately document any and all asbestos-related actions and have copies of this documentation and management plan on school property at all times. The EPA is tasked with developing and enforcing regulations among school officials and ensuring that federal requirements are met.
It’s important to note that removal of asbestos-containing materials is not always required. Unless the materials have been severely damaged, federal requirements are built around in-place management that monitors and reduces risk as opposed to implementing potentially risky or unnecessary removal operations.
What Are the Federal Requirements for Asbestos Management in Schools?
Federal requirements for asbestos management plans in public and private schools are defined under AHERA and compliance is enforced by the EPA. Schools must also comply with National Emissions Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants Compliance Monitoring (NESHAP) and must perform separate inspections to maintain compliance.
Under AHERA, school districts must:
- Conduct a thorough survey to locate asbestos-containing materials in all schools in the district and perform subsequent re-inspections every three years.
- Create and record an asbestos management plan and keep these records on school grounds.
- Maintain transparency by offering yearly asbestos action reports to parent and teacher groups.
- Name a contact person to oversee asbestos management and enforce compliance with safety regulations.
- Conduct regular surveillance of asbestos containing materials (ACM).
- Ensure that proper inspection, management actions, and removal processes are conducted by licensed professionals.
- Provide all faculty with asbestos-awareness training and procedures.
It is vital that compliance and safety measures are easily accessible and identifiable. Each school district and non-profit school is required to keep thorough documentation of any and all asbestos-related actions and events and keep a copy at each building. These records should include:
- The title and address of all school buildings and a list of any asbestos-containing materials on the property
- Exact dates of original and subsequent inspections
- Plans for future inspections
- Clear identification of all locations within the building that contain asbestos
- Asbestos management personnel contact information
- A thorough description of steps to provide asbestos awareness and training to staff, students, and parents
AHERA vs NESHAP
While AHERA and NESHAP may seem similar in that they are designed to regulate the asbestos management of commercial buildings, they are distinct and must be addressed separately. For example, AHERA applies to schools and school districts specifically, and monitoring is focused on visible and easily accessible materials that may contain asbestos.
NESHAP, on the other hand, is a pre-renovation inspection that applies to all commercial buildings (including schools) and requires officials to sample any and all materials that present a risk of hazardous air pollutants, including those deep within the interior of the buildings walls, floors, and foundations.
Reliable, Accredited Asbestos Surveying & Analysis in Portland, Oregon with JSE Labs
At JSE labs, we’ve been providing quick and accurate testing and analysis to private and commercial building owners for 20 years. Our mission is to help you maintain compliance with any and all federal and local regulations and ensure that your building is safe for all.
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