We’ve seen a lot of signs recently that the government is seeking to increase the scope of its enforcement action around asbestos.
Discussions in parliament and policy documents that we have seen indicate a desire for full asbestos compliance across the economy. It would be unwise therefore to expect any tolerance of non-compliance from now on.
What is changing?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recently announced that its inspectors will soon commence inspections of schools. Beginning in September 2022, they will visit primary and secondary schools to assess their management of asbestos risk.
HSE inspectors will contact schools first to arrange a suitable time for the inspection.
But the HSE also has the power to inspect any business, with or without notice. We would expect increased inspections generally across all types of business.
What should you do?
Of course, all businesses should be compliant with asbestos legislation already. But if you are not, then getting compliant tomorrow is far better than remaining uncompliant.
From our point of view, we commit to helping you do that.
If you occupy a non-residential building that was built before 1999 then this applies to you.
Advice for schools in particular
If you are a Duty Holder and this is new to you, then the most important thing is to get advice from a qualified person.
The Duty Holder for asbestos management will usually be deemed to be the employer. So, school leaders should review their documentation and review compliance, regardless of who actually owns and maintains the building.
In any case, you should collect all of your previous documentation about asbestos in one place (surveys, asbestos register if applicable, and asbestos management plans). Then decide whether or not a new survey is required. The purpose of this documentation is to know whether or not there is asbestos within your estate, and if there is, how it is being monitored and managed. Then to be able to share this information easily with those who need it, such as building professionals.
Also, have someone available who knows the detail of how your school manages its asbestos risk.
You don’t necessarily have to remove all asbestos in any building. But, if you have it, you must prove that it is being effectively managed. That will include regular surveys and action if anything changes. The changes that you are looking for include any degradation of the condition of the asbestos or whatever it is enclosed in. And, any new use of buildings that potentially increases the chances of asbestos exposure.
The HSE provides advice on what to expect from an inspection. This was first produced in 2017 and includes all kinds of health and safety risks. The gist of it is that you have to take all reasonable steps to keep people safe. The risk of asbestos exposure is certainly one risk that should be taken seriously.
We support any action aimed at educating building owners, managers, and users about asbestos responsibilities. And we would expect professionals such as builders to know this already through standard mandatory asbestos awareness training.
If you are unsure of your responsibilities or compliance and would like a confidential conversation then feel free to get in touch.
Likewise, we provide training in asbestos awareness for Duty Holders and trade professionals. If you need a refresher then please ask.