Any business that owns or manages property built before 1999 will have some asbestos responsibilities. These will vary depending on what is known about the building and the circumstances. For example, if any refurbishment or demolition is planned, there are some immediate responsibilities.
Of course, if there is known asbestos then this has to be managed, but not knowing about it is no excuse. The responsibility to prevent people from exposure to it is paramount.
So, this is our guide to the main considerations for businesses and the things you should consider.
What are your asbestos responsibilities?
If your building was built before 1999 then you will have a responsibility under the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2012) to manage the risk, protecting workers and the public.
This starts with a management survey. It will identify any potential risks and what to do about them. Sampling and analysis will be done where necessary. This will form the basis of your Asbestos Management Plan.
How often do surveys have to be done?
Asbestos Management surveys should be a starting point and are a legal requirement as part of the management of asbestos within a property.
If this document is accurate and comprehensive and you have confidence in its findings then this is the foundation of your asbestos management. It will contain the original asbestos register.
The legal duty is to manage asbestos. Known asbestos products can deteriorate over time, become damaged, and become dangerous. Annual Asbestos Re-inspections are required to reassess the risks. The main reason (and a minimum legal requirement) is to identify any increased risk before exposure occurs.
Some of our clients with higher risk items decide that more frequent Re-inspections are needed, such as every 6 months. Each time the Asbestos Re-inspection is undertaken, the site Asbestos Register is reviewed and updated.
Your Asbestos Management Survey and associated Asbestos Re-inspection documents will be requested if you are selling a property, plant, or equipment that could contain asbestos. It is also good practice to reinspect if changes occur in the use of a building or after refurbishment work with the updated schematics. See our Asbestos Reinspection Survey page for more.
Remember that only accessible areas are likely to have been surveyed. So, imagine you have had an Asbestos Management Survey that has found no asbestos. Great. But, that doesn’t mean that you can go and blithely knock walls and ceilings down. Such work can only be legally done following a specific survey for that purpose. It’s known as an Asbestos Refurbishment Survey or an Asbestos Demolition Survey or an Asbestos Refurbishment and Demolition Survey.
Are there any other ongoing responsibilities?
Your responsibilities include maintaining the Asbestos Management Plan and associated Asbestos Register, carrying out all duties recommended within that, and ensuring Asbestos Reinspection Surveys at suitable intervals. In addition, the usual risk management principles apply. You should do whatever is reasonable to manage the specific risks.
What if there is refurbishment or demolition?
An Asbestos Refurbishment Survey or Demolition Survey is required where any intrusive building work is planned. This is to ensure that hazardous materials are not damaged or disturbed during such work.
A refurbishment or demolition survey ensures the people carrying out the work are protected, as are your staff, visitors, and the general public. Businesses will of course be liable for any harm caused by exposing people to asbestos. Criminal prosecution can be initiated in those cases and this does result in fines and prison terms for directors of businesses.
What should you look for in an asbestos service?
In our view, there are a number of things that make a good asbestos service:
- The surveys should be comprehensive. They should cover all areas of the building that are accessible and be thorough enough to give you confidence that all asbestos that could be found has been found. That’s why it is useful to have a trained and competent surveyor experienced in surveying various properties including those in your industry. Asbestos can be found in building fabric, pipe lagging, insulation, plant, and decorative coatings and features. And it can be mixed with other materials. We have seen instances in which some asbestos containing materials have been found but not others.
- It needs to be appropriate to the risk. All parts of a building should be checked, not just those that you suspect contain asbestos.
- The surveyor should be independent of the analyst at the laboratory and independent of any removal contractor. This prevents any conflict of interest such as a business being dependent on a positive finding or having to sign off the work of a related company.
- Minimal disruption should be the default setting. That means surveys conducted at times that suit your business and any intrusive sampling or removal work planned and conducted to eliminate or minimise downtime.
- Safe ways of working. That means qualified and competent people in each role (surveyor, analyst, removal contractor) and correct PPE and additional safeguards such as air testing where appropriate.
We are always happy to discuss your asbestos service needs. Please contact us with any enquiries.