You have a duty to protect people from risk of exposure to asbestos.
Asbestos is the largest single cause of work related, fatal disease and ill health in Great Britain.
Any work that involves disturbing or removing asbestos materials from your premises may have to be undertaken by a specialist licensed contractor. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) maintains a list of licensed asbestos removal companies.
Management of asbestos
In order to protect maintenance workers, contractors and others from inadvertent exposure to asbestos fibres, anyone who has responsibility for maintaining and repairing all or part of a non-domestic property, or who has control of the building is a 'duty holder' and has a LEGAL responsibility to:
- find out whether the building(s) contains asbestos, and what condition it is in
- assess the risk, e.g. if it is likely to release fibres
- make a plan to manage that risk
The law also covers the common areas of residential rented properties, including halls, stair wells, lift shafts and roof spaces.
If you control or have information about a building covered by the regulations, you must co-operate with the 'duty holder'. For instance, landlords must pass on relevant information to new tenants, and leaseholders must allow access for inspection by managing agents.
Where do I start?
- Do a desktop study to check out what you already know about your buildings, e.g. look at plans and other documents
- Contact anyone else who may already have useful information about the building, e.g. a surveyor, architect or contractor who knows the building
- Carry out an inspection of the building. You can do this in-house, especially if you simply assume materials contain asbestos. Or use an independent expert if samples have to be analysed
- Record the results of the inspection, identifying the parts of the building where asbestos may be located
- Assess the risk of asbestos fibres being released into the air from the materials in those areas. Take into account the materials' condition and how likely they are to be damaged or disturbed
- Draw up a management plan. State which areas, if any, need asbestos to be sealed, encapsulated or, as a last resort, removed
- The key part of the plan is to warn people coming to work on the building, to prevent accidental exposure
- Build in regular checks to make sure the condition of materials has not deteriorated. Concentrate on areas of high risk, where materials are more likely to get damaged
- Keep the management plan up to date to show any changes that could affect the risk
Remember, the legal duty is about managing any asbestos in a building, NOT about removing all asbestos. If asbestos is in good condition and is not likely to be disturbed then it should not be removed. Removal may be unnecessary and costly.
What shouldn't I do?
- Don't panic – asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed. If it is safely managed and contained, it doesn't present a health hazard
- Don't remove asbestos unnecessarily. Removing it can be more dangerous than simply containing it
- Don't treat all asbestos materials the same. You only need to use a licensed contractor to work on high risk materials, such as pipe insulation or asbestos insulating panels – not on asbestos cement which is much less dangerous
- Don't assume you need to bring in a specialist in every case. The regulation allows you to inspect your own building and assume materials contain asbestos
- Don't forget that the regulation is all about protecting maintenance workers and others from asbestos fibres, so concentrate on practical steps to achieve this
Where can I get more information?
The HSE produce a large amount of information on asbestos, much of which can be viewed via their website for small businesses (link opposite). Alternatively you can contact us.
If you are an asbestos removal company and need to notify us of an asbestos removal you are undertaking in our area please email the notification to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please ask if you require confirmation of receipt.