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The construction industry has witnessed numerous innovations and materials over the years. Two such materials, Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) and asbestos, have been in recent headline news due to their implications on health and safety, especially in educational institutions.

RAAC and Asbestos: A Comprehensive Guide for Schools

The construction industry has witnessed numerous innovations and materials over the years. Two such materials, Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) and asbestos, have been in recent headline news due to their implications on health and safety, especially in educational institutions.

RAAC, a lightweight concrete, was a popular building material from the 1950s to the mid-1990s. Its unique porous nature made it an excellent alternative to traditional concrete. Its versatility meant it could be used in various applications, from roof panels to walls and floors. Many educational institutions constructed during this period incorporated RAAC in their design due to its cost-effectiveness and functional benefits. However, as RAAC structures approach and exceed their typical lifespan of around 30 years, concerns about their structural integrity in schools and other public buildings have grown.

Like all construction materials, RAAC has a defined lifespan of approximately 30 years. As structures age, the integrity of RAAC panels can be compromised. Over time, exposure to environmental factors, wear and tear, and other stresses can lead to cracks or deterioration in RAAC structures. Given that many buildings using RAAC are now well beyond this 30-year mark, concerns about their structural safety have arisen, especially when intertwined with materials like asbestos.
Understanding RAAC’s properties, history, and current implications is crucial for institutions, especially schools, as they navigate the complexities of building maintenance and safety.

School Asbestos

The Asbestos Connection

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, was hailed for its remarkable properties and was extensively used in construction and various other industries for decades. Its fire-resistant, insulating, and durable nature made it an ideal choice for various applications, from roofing to insulation and even in some floor tiles.

During the period when RAAC was popularly used, asbestos was also a common component in many building materials. The coexistence of these materials in structures, especially in schools, is where the challenge arises. RAAC, being a lightweight and porous concrete, was often reinforced or combined with other materials to enhance its strength and durability. In many instances, asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) were used alongside or even within RAAC structures as a binding agent for insulation or fireproofing.

As RAAC structures age and deteriorate, there’s a heightened risk of disturbing any asbestos present within the school. Cracks or damages in RAAC can lead to the release of asbestos fibres, mainly if the RAAC contains or is adjacent to ACMs. When these fibres become airborne, they pose a significant health risk to anyone who inhales them. Given the microscopic size of asbestos fibres, they can quickly become airborne and remain suspended for long periods, increasing the risk of inhalation by school students, teachers, and staff.

The dual challenge of managing ageing RAAC structures while ensuring that asbestos is not disturbed is a significant concern for schools. The potential for asbestos exposure becomes even more critical when considering investigation, repair, renovation, or demolition activities involving RAAC. Without proper precautions and expertise, such activities can inadvertently release asbestos fibres, endangering the health of everyone in the vicinity.

Given the intertwined history of RAAC and asbestos in construction, understanding this connection is crucial for schools. It underscores the importance of specialised Asbestos Management Surveys, testing, and interventions to ensure the safety of the school environment.

raac failed structure

The Challenge for Schools

Schools, as centres of education and community, are responsible for ensuring the safety and well-being of their students, staff, and visitors.

Legacy of Past Construction Practices:
Many educational institutions, especially those constructed between the 1950s and 1990s, were built during a time when both RAAC and asbestos were popular construction materials. Schools now inherit the legacy of these past construction practices, which, while considered innovative at the time, now pose significant health and safety concerns.

Limited Awareness and Expertise:
Not all school administrators or maintenance teams may be aware of the intricacies of RAAC and its potential association with asbestos. This lack of awareness can lead to unintentional disturbances, especially during routine repairs or renovations.

Regulatory and Legal Obligations:
Schools have a legal duty to manage asbestos in their premises as part of Regulation 4: The duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises. This includes conducting regular Asbestos Surveys, maintaining an asbestos register, keeping up t date floor plans showing ACMs and ensuring that asbestos-containing materials are in good condition. The presence of both RAAC and asbestos complicates these obligations, requiring schools to be even more diligent.

Communication and Training:
Ensuring all staff, from teachers to caretakers, are informed about the potential risks of RAAC and asbestos is crucial. Schools must invest in training and awareness programmes to ensure that potential hazards are promptly identified and addressed. This is clearly laid on in Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations requiring all workers who may be exposed to Asbestos during their work (and those that supervise them) to receive suitable training.

Balancing Safety with Education:
While the safety of students and staff is paramount, schools also need to ensure that educational activities continue with minimal disruption. This balance becomes especially challenging when extensive repairs or renovations are required.

Balancing Safety with Education:
While the safety of students and staff is paramount, schools also need to ensure that educational activities continue with minimal disruption. This balance becomes especially challenging when extensive repairs or renovations are required.

Engaging with Parents and the Community:
Parents entrust schools with the safety of their children. When issues related to RAAC and asbestos arise, schools need to communicate transparently with parents, ensuring they are informed and reassured about the measures being taken to address the challenges.
In navigating these challenges, schools must adopt a proactive and informed approach. Collaborating with experts such as Fibre Safe, investing in training, and ensuring open communication lines with all stakeholders are essential steps in addressing the complexities of RAAC and asbestos.

How Can Fibre Safe Support Schools?

Fibre Safe supporting Schools

Asbestos Surveys for Schools:
Before any repair or removal of RAAC structures in schools, it’s crucial to understand the presence of asbestos. We conduct detailed Asbestos Surveys on school properties, ensuring educational institutions are well-informed about potential asbestos risks.

Helping You Understand Your Asbestos Findings:
If truth be told, many of the appointed persons responsible for asbestos and RAAC within schools do not fully understand their findings or their legal obligations. Fibre Safe can run seminars for school staff to breakdown the findings of the asbestos report and relay the critical information to the school staff. This puts them into a better position to understand their role within the school and how their job can and will be affected by asbestos containing materials.

Specialised Asbestos Removal in Educational Settings:
Given the unique challenges RAAC poses in schools, we offer specialised asbestos removal services tailored for educational environments. Our team ensures minimal disruption to school activities while prioritising the safety of students and staff.

Asbestos Testing for RAAC Structures:
As RAAC and asbestos often co-exist in older buildings, our asbestos testing services are crucial for schools planning RAAC repairs. We provide same-day results to UKAS standards, enabling schools to make informed decisions promptly.

Asbestos Training for School Staff:
Understanding the intricacies of RAAC and asbestos is vital for school staff. We offer bespoke asbestos training courses for educators, administrators, and maintenance teams, ensuring they know how to manage and respond to RAAC-related asbestos concerns. For more information, ask about our Duty to Manage training (1 day course).

Asbestos Management Plans:
Many duty holders are not truly aware that their asbestos management requirements do not stop at conducting an asbestos survey, in fact, that is just the first steppingstone. The health & safety executive place clear emphasis on school’s requirement a detailed asbestos management plan which shows roles and responsibilities, asbestos monitoring, communications, procedures etc. If you do not have one in place, please get in touch for more information.

RAAC and Asbestos Roof Repair:
Many schools with RAAC structures also have asbestos roofs. For those facing issues with leaking or deteriorating roofs, we provide expert repair services that address both RAAC and asbestos challenges.

Our Credentials

Since our establishment in 2004, Fibre Safe has addressed asbestos challenges across the North West, North Wales and the UK. Given the unique challenges posed by ageing RAAC structures and associated asbestos risks, our team’s expertise is especially valuable for schools. Our commitment to health & safety standards and our deep understanding of the educational sector’s needs make us a trusted partner for schools navigating the complexities of RAAC and asbestos.

Our Qualifications and Accreditations include:
• BOHS P402 Asbestos Surveying and Sampling
• BOHS P405 Management of Asbestos in Buildings
• BOHS P406 Supervision and Management of Safe Removal of Asbestos
• ARCA – Asbestos Licensed Removal Operative
• ARCA – Asbestos Licensed Operative Supervisor
• ARCA – Asbestos Licensed Contract Manager
• HND – Building Surveying
• BSc– Construction Degree
• CIRIA – Asbestos in Soil

Take Action with Fibre Safe

Navigating the complexities of RAAC and asbestos can be daunting, especially for educational institutions prioritising their students’ and staff’s safety and well-being. But you don’t have to face these challenges alone.
At Fibre Safe, we provide expert guidance, comprehensive services, and tailored solutions to address your specific needs. Whether you require a detailed Asbestos Survey, specialised training, or consultation on RAAC-related concerns, our team is here to assist.


Call us today on 0800 458 4136 or email us at: sales@fibresafe.com to discuss how we can support you.

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