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, the HSE are coming down hard on businesses that fail to put in place adequate arrangements for both the identification and management of asbestos. This article is an essential read for builders merchants who don’t want to fall foul of the law.
1. WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MANAGEMENT OF ASBESTOS ON SITE?
Those responsible for the maintenance and repair of a building have a legal duty to manage any asbestos in it. In rented commercial buildings, the asbestos management duties are usually defined in the lease, but if not, then this responsibility typically falls to the tenant as being the person who has the most control over the building.
2. IS YOUR BUILDERS MERCHANT 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.
3. WHERE IS ASBESTOS FOUND IN BUILDINGS?
Asbestos was used extensively as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s. 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
4. ARE YOU OR YOUR STAFF AT RISK?
The following activities may cause asbestos fibres to be released:
- Drilling holes
- Cutting with hand and power tools
- Breaking up materials
Workers most at risk include those involved in the refurbishment, repair or maintenance of buildings such as plumbers, carpenters, and electricians, but if your employees are working in the area, then they will also be at risk.
5. WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO COMPLY WITH THE LAW?
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 likely to work on or disturb them.
6. WHAT IF ASBESTOS IS PRESENT BUT FULLY INTACT?
Whilst intact, asbestos does not pose a risk to human health and there is no need to rip it out. Simply continue to monitor the area to ensure it does not deteriorate and notify anyone who is likely to work on or disturb the area.
7. WHAT IF I UNCOVER DAMAGED OR DISTURBED ASBESTOS MATERIAL ON SITE?
If you suspect you have damaged or disturbed asbestos material on site, seek advice from Southalls about how to manage this effectively to ensure your business is compliant, and your staff kept safe.
Southalls Asbestos Experts can undertake a survey (called a Management Survey or R&D survey) and sampling of any materials suspected to contain asbestos. Included with the survey is an asbestos register with site plan and management plan, ensuring you are fully compliant with the Regulations.