In excess of 2000 workers die each year from mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer as a result of past exposure to asbestos. In order to prevent further deaths from asbestos-related diseases, those responsible for the maintenance and repair of a building have a legal duty to manage any asbestos in it. Failure to comply leaves businesses at risk of crippling fines, and even possible imprisonment of individuals.
The HSE are getting tough on companies who expose workers to asbestos. In the month of August alone, 4 companies were prosecuted for asbestos breaches!
One of these was Kent County Council (KCC), who were fined £200,000 after asbestos was disturbed at Lansdowne Primary School. A caretaker had removed a steriliser unit in the kitchen exposing and leaving an asbestos rope hanging from the ceiling. This was found during a routine environmental health officer food inspection.
IS YOUR BUSINESS AT RISK?
Buildings built in or after 2000 are unlikely to contain asbestos but if your building is older than that then you need to ensure you are complying with The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012 require you to:
- Take reasonable steps to determine the location and condition of materials likely to contain asbestos.
- Presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not.
- Make and keep up to date a record of the location and condition of the asbestos-containing materials (ACM's) or presumed ACM's in the premises.
- Assess the risk of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to fibres from these materials and prepare a management plan setting out how the risks from the materials are to be managed.
- Take the necessary steps to put the plan into action.
- Review and monitor the plan.
- Provide information on the location and condition of the materials to ANYONE who is liable to work on or disturb them.
ARE YOU OR YOUR STAFF AT RISK?
Workers most at risk include those involved in the refurbishment, repair or maintenance of buildings such as plumbers, carpenters, and electricians.
WHERE IS ASBESTOS FOUND IN BUILDINGS?
Asbestos was used extensively as a building material in the UK from the 1950’s through to the mid-1980’s. Areas where you may come across it include:
- Fire breaks in ceiling voids and fire protection panels/partitions.
- Pipe/boiler lagging
- Ceiling tiles
- Insulation of electrical equipment
- Corrugated roof/wall sheets, gutters, rainwater pipes, and water tanks.
- Certain textured coatings.
- Bitumen roofing material
- Floor tiles
Asbestos fibres may be released when:
- Drilling holes
- Cutting with hand and power tools
- Breaking up materials
If in doubt – don’t rip it out! Whilst intact, asbestos does not pose a risk to human health. If you suspect you have damaged asbestos material on site seek advice about how to manage this effectively to ensure your business is compliant, and your staff kept safe.