Asbestos in Schools - Public Service Association

Asbestos in Schools

The NSW Department of Education Asbestos Management Policy (AMP)i  is the principle document for asbestos management in the two and a half thousand Education sites.

The aim of this Policy is to ensure a Safe Working Environment for staff, students, Visitors and Contractors. Provide safe work practices, risk assessments, training, requirements for removal and Emergency response procedures.

Under this policy all schools are required to notify their local Asset Management Unit (AMU) of any works to be carried out on their site. This includes work that may disturb asbestos containing material (ACM).

If any work is to be carried out in your school the contractor should check the Asbestos Register (AR). The AR should also contain any Certificates of Asbestos Removal. This should be located near the sign on sheet for contractors. General Assistants (GA’s) should always check the AR before doing any work around the school (it’s better to be safe than sorry). If you have any concerns, you should report your concerns to the Principal.

Asbestos registers are created by specialist consultants who will record all observable asbestos. They may not be able to access all parts of the buildings and sub-surfaces and therefore are usually accurate for those areas identified.

The most common areas for asbestos in schools (usually the older schools) are in floor tiles, exterior walls, the vermiculite ceilings, landfill, sprayed asbestos insulation, asbestos cement (eg: roof sheeting, gutter inserts), pipe lagging and in the putty used to seal around the windows in the older style demountable and possibly in the older style windows in schools (refer to AMP). Other places that asbestos is occasionally found is around old fume cabinets in science labs, around old boilers or incinerators, in old fire blankets, and unfortunately in loose land fill often used under school playgrounds.

While the AR may indicate that there is no asbestos you should be aware that where a room has carpet there could be asbestos tiles under the carpet. This has happened in older schools due to carpet being laid before there was a AR. If there is it should be reported to the Principal who will raise it with AMU. The issue with this is the soft edges that are nailed into the asbestos tiles which may have caused damage already and if not, damage may occur when the soft edge is removed.

With the Vermiculite ceilings the Dept of Education had a programme of going around to all the schools and testing the roof areas (refer to Assets Notice DN/17/00080, The testing was only sample testing across some 5 to 6 spots on the roof.

Results were recorded in the AR and any areas were removed. Quote from the notice: “There must be no works involving vermiculite undertaken in any school without formal approval and oversight by the local Asset Management Unit.”  

This was highlighted in 2022 at high school when the vermiculite ceiling tested positive for asbestos even though the AR stated it was negative. So be wary around what’s in the AR, get it rechecked if unsure.

With window putty the DoE have a policy of replacing the putty in the demountable (this is listed in the AMP). If you are unsure if this has been done check the AR or see if there is a Certificate of Asbestos Removal. You could also contact AMU for conformation and copies of Certificates. There is a whole of government program that sees asbestos containing demountables remediated with CSI.

If you come across any asbestos, report it, document it and if you can take photos. This is evidence for any future reference. Just remember it’s not just your safety at risk it’s also the people around you. Any symptoms of Asbestos related diseases can take 20 to 40 years to show.

The AMP is located on the Departmental intranet. A copy should also be kept with the Health and Safety folder.

A public version is available on the internet at

You need to be a licensed asbestos remover to handle and remove asbestos.

What to do if you are exposed?

Exposure to asbestos fibres is most risky when inhaling the dust from broken materials. If exposed to asbestos dust you should write up an WHS Incident report and get this signed off by your Principal and make a copy for yourself.

There is some debate in the medical fraternity, however, many recommend at the point of time of exposure, that you undertake a lung screening.

If you require union assistance, please contact PSA Member Support on 1800 772 679.

Your industrial contacts

Peta Noke GA Organiser

Sharny Chalmers GA Industrial Officer

Member Support Centre 1800 772 679



iOriginally of 2007, updated in 2015 to comply with the 2011 Work Health and Safety Act, revised in 2017 and revised in 2020.

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