The Asbestos Hazardous Emergency Response Act (AHERA) was established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect students, educators and staff from coming in contact with asbestos in schools. The AHERA regulations require schools to:
- perform asbestos inspections,
- maintain an asbestos management plan, and
- provide asbestos awareness training for custodial and building services staff.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral fiber that has been used in building construction materials for insulation and as a fire retardant. If these materials are disturbed or damaged in any way, asbestos fibers can be released into the air and breathed in. Breathing in asbestos fibers increases the risk of developing health effects—such as lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Learn more about asbestos and the health effects from exposure to asbestos fibers.
The EPA has specific regulations regarding the handling of asbestos-containing materials in schools. The EPA published the Asbestos-Containing Materials in Schools Rule (AHERA Rule) in 1987. It applies to all non-profit elementary and secondary schools nationwide, both public and private. Local education agencies are responsible for ensuring compliance with the AHERA Rule, which requires all schools:
- Perform an inspection of each school to find out whether asbestos-containing materials are present
- Re-inspect any asbestos-containing materials in each school every three years
- Develop, maintain and update an asbestos management plan and keep a copy at each school
- Train custodial and maintenance staff on asbestos awareness
- Notify parents, teachers and employee organizations yearly that the school's asbestos management plan is available for their review and what asbestos-related activities are taking place within the school
- Designate a contact person ("designated person") to make sure the responsibilities of the school or school district are properly implemented
- Perform periodic inspections of known or suspected asbestos-containing materials
- Ensure that trained and licensed professionals perform inspections and take response actions
More information from the EPA on AHERA regulations:
Public and non-profit schools are required to develop, maintain and update asbestos management plans and to keep a copy at each individual school. These plans are required to document the recommended asbestos response actions, the location of asbestos within the school, and any action taken to repair and remove the material.
Parents, teachers and school employees have the right to review the school’s asbestos management plan. Schools are required to notify parent-teacher organizations once a year about the availability of the school’s asbestos management plan and any asbestos-related activities taking place within the school.
More information from the EPA about the development and implementation of an AHERA Management Plan:
- The Asbestos Model Accreditation Plan
- School Asbestos Management Plan Requirements
- How to Manage Asbestos in School Buildings: The AHERA Designated Person’s Self Study Guide
- Asbestos and School Buildings
- Model AHERA Management Plan for Local Education Agencies
- AHERA Asbestos Management Plan – Self Audit Checklist for Designated Persons
Asbestos may be a health risk if it is damaged or disturbed during building renovations or demolition. It is important to contain and handle asbestos and remove it correctly so students and school staff don't breathe in asbestos fibers.
The Health Department and EPA have specific asbestos-related requirements for school maintenance, repair, renovation and demolition. These requirements make sure asbestos-containing materials are handled safely during renovations to prevent health risks.
Before maintenance, repairs, renovation or demolition, contact the school’s AHERA designated person to review the school’s asbestos management plan and contract for asbestos professional services.
Vermont-licensed contractors must perform all asbestos-related services in schools. Licensed asbestos contractors are trained to prevent health risks during renovation or demolition.
More information about maintaining a healthy school environment during building renovations:
The Health Department performs periodic AHERA inspections in schools on behalf of the EPA.
If your school has not been inspected in the past three years, an AHERA inspector will call to schedule an inspection. During this inspection, the AHERA inspector will ask to see:
- The school’s asbestos management plan and re-inspection reports
- A copy of the annual notification to parents, teachers and employee organizations regarding the availability of the school’s asbestos management plan for their review
- A list of the names of the maintenance and custodial staff and dates when they received the two-hour asbestos awareness training
- AHERA Periodic Surveillance Reports
- A signed statement by the AHERA designated person that certifies the local education agency’s responsibilities under the AHERA regulation (40 CFA part 763) have been or will be met
- Information about any asbestos abatement work that has occurred since November 1989 to ensure it was performed in accordance with asbestos abatement regulations
If a school was built after October 12, 1988, an architect or project engineer who was responsible for the construction or an accredited AHERA inspector can verify through a signed statement that the building is asbestos free. This signed statement needs to be kept with the AHERA management plan for the school. However, you will still need to send out the yearly notification to parents, teachers and employee organizations.
If you have questions about the AHERA school inspections, email AHS.VDHALRPGeneral@vermont.gov.