While children are outside enjoying the weather this summer their schools will remain very busy. In many cases, the spring and summer months are the perfect time for schools to catch up on routine maintenance, renovations and regulatory compliance. School districts are required to monitor various components of their buildings and one of these materials, asbestos, is more common than you would expect. Since its implementation in 1986, the Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) has been hard at work protecting teachers and students who walk the aging halls of our nation’s schools. Enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), AHERA presents a simple procedure to prevent staff and students from being exposed to asbestos containing materials (ACM). If you recall from our asbestos post, asbestos is not necessarily an environmental concern until the ACM material is broken down and the asbestos fibers are airborne. AHERA is essentially a preventative measure tool for elementary and secondary schools.
AHERA began with a call for a nationwide inspection of public and private schools to determine the extent and quantity of asbestos containing materials (ACM) in each building owned by every school district. As long as a building is owned and operated by a school district, it must be inspected, to include maintenance and office buildings. Once each building was inspected and the materials were inventoried and assessed for damage by licensed asbestos building inspectors, district wide AHERA management plans were created. Each school district is responsible for their own plan, even districts with no confirmed ACM in any building.
The AHERA management plan designates an individual working for the district as an asbestos coordinator. The coordinator is responsible for the following:
- Preventing exposure of students and teachers to asbestos fibers
- Planning and scheduling re-inspections of district buildings
- Coordinating renovation/demolition projects with contractors
- Implementing training program for custodians
Periodic surveillance inspections are typically performed every six months with larger, more comprehensive inspections conducted every three years. These inspections allow districts to locate damaged ACM, helping them to schedule maintenance projects and prevent exposure of their students.
Although the health of their students is a priority of each district, their employees’ health, specifically the health of their custodians is vital as well. Custodians work hard to keep schools operational and to provide a clean, safe learning environment. Often this requires working in less traveled areas of the school, such as the boiler room, which can often contain large amounts of ACM. AHERA requires asbestos awareness training for these individuals, allowing custodians to identify potential materials and ensure both their safety and reduce the likelihood of asbestos fibers being released into the air.
With AHERA regulations in place, school districts are able to keep students and teachers safe, manage their renovations, and train their staff to ensure a healthy environment for learning. Element Environmental Solutions (E2S) has countless experience conducting district-wide AHERA inspections and inventorying ACM. E2S is able to assist with all aspects of AHERA compliance to include providing asbestos awareness guidance, conducting air sampling if asbestos removal is required, and preparing asbestos abatement specifications and bidding documents. Ensure the safety of your students and staff, while managing your asbestos plan effectively.