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Statement from the Secretary of the Department of Education

The Department of Education manages a large and diverse portfolio of school infrastructure, and asbestos can be found in public schools. Asbestos was commonly used in buildings between the 1940s and late 1980s, and is present today in materials such as cement sheeting, cement roofing, vinyl floor tiles and wall lining.

The health, safety and wellbeing of students, staff and neighbours is our highest priority.

The Department of Education has a rigorous system of maintenance and monitoring at all schools across NSW. Asbestos is managed in accordance with the Department of Education’s Asbestos Management Plan and Safe Work NSW by licensed and accredited asbestos removalists and occupational hygienists in strict accordance with all applicable legislation, regulations, policies and guidelines. Appropriate safety measures are implemented prior to and during removal as well as during any remediation works required.

Asbestos removal is carried out as part of capital works and maintenance in NSW government schools as appropriate.

The processes used in managing school sites affected by asbestos were developed with stakeholders including NSW Health, Safe Work NSW and Public Works, with supporting independent health hygienists.

Any asbestos concerns are reported to the local Asset Management Unit. The Department takes immediate action where necessary, consistent with relevant statutory guidelines. All asbestos removal is conducted outside of school hours.

At any time friable asbestos is suspected, the Department acts immediately to secure and remediate. This includes the removal of students from the area of concern, the engagement of an independent hygienist, air monitoring and the commissioning of licensed contractors to remove the asbestos in accordance with the Safe Work NSW guidelines.

More than $10 million has been invested on asbestos remediation in more than 120 public schools in 2018/19 and 2019/20.

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