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What is the duty to manage asbestos? What else do you have to do after an asbestos survey?

Asbestos containing materials labelled with a yellow label for safety following an asbestos survey.

So, you have had an asbestos survey? Great. Now what?

That is not where your responsibilities end. If there are any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) found or any potential ACMs, then you have a range of responsibilities specified in law. These are collectively called the duty to manage. This duty is set out in the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR, 2012).

Here is a guide to what you need to do in addition to your asbestos survey on commercial premises or communal areas of residential property.

Who is the dutyholder?

The duty to manage asbestos applies to those in control of any non-domestic building or the communal areas of domestic premises that have the potential to contain asbestos. This is generally taken to mean those built before 2000. The HSE also advises that recent buildings may contain asbestos within any older industrial machinery.

The dutyholder can be a building’s owner, landlord, commercial tenant, or any person or organisation with responsibility for the building’s repair and maintenance. A managing agent cannot be a legal dutyholder.

The dutyholder won’t be effective at managing these duties on their own. They must raise awareness amongst anyone who works on the building or has the potential to disturb asbestos. And, they must share information, especially with anyone who has any responsibility under the asbestos management plan (discussed later). The need for collaboration should be clear from the responsibilities described below.

An overview of the duty to manage

In summary, the dutyholder must protect people from the risk of asbestos exposure. That includes workers, users of a building, and the general public.

The range of things that dutyholders are required to do includes:

  • Appoint someone competent to manage the responsibility. This suggests that they should be suitably trained, to a higher level than simply asbestos awareness. If you have a Health and Safety Manager or head of estates or facilities, then it may be a responsibility that fits well with their role.
  • Assess whether or not asbestos-containing materials are present. This, of course, includes arranging asbestos surveys and sampling at suitable times.
  • If asbestos is found or suspected, assess the amount, its locations, and condition.
  • Produce and maintain an asbestos register.
  • Risk assess asbestos exposure. This is mainly about the likelihood of fibres becoming airborne.
  • Develop an asbestos management plan to manage these risks.
  • Ensure the plan is put into action.
  • Review the plan every 12 months or more frequently if required. This includes reassessing the condition of any ACMs or suspected ACMs.
  • Share information appropriately: ‘Provide information on the location and condition of the ACMs to anyone who may work on or disturb them, including the emergency services.’

These are set out in guidance from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

If in doubt, the HSE approved code of practice should be your guide.

Information gathering, surveys and sampling

Any asbestos survey has to be adequate for your needs. If not already done, you will need an asbestos management survey as a minimum.

If you are new to developing an asbestos management plan, you should first review what information is currently held. It could be previous surveys or details of ACMs such as an asbestos register.

Your job then is to consider how comprehensive the information is, what needs to be updated, and how it meets your current and future needs.

Not every material in a building will be surveyed and sampled, so it is part of the duty to manage unknown risks. This is often termed ‘presuming’ asbestos is present unless proven otherwise.

Asbestos register

If any asbestos has been found, it needs to be properly documented in an asbestos register within or as an appendix to your asbestos management plan.

The asbestos register should detail the location and type of all known and suspected ACMs. Also, their condition, and related to this, the likelihood of asbestos fibres being released.

If removing asbestos (which is not always essential), you will need records to show that this was done and the locations.

Your asbestos register should include actions, due dates, and plans for reinspection.

As with your asbestos management plan, the asbestos register should be updated annually, or more frequently if anything happens that increases the risk.

Asbestos risk assessment

Following on from your asbestos register, a risk assessment should be completed. This will include prioritising ACMs that need remedial action. The condition of the ACM and the likelihood of disturbance are the major factors that you are likely to take into account. But, there will also be site-specific details which might include maintenance programmes, site development plans, and the current and future use of the building.

Asbestos management plans

The HSE definition of an asbestos management plan is ‘An asbestos management plan sets out the procedures and arrangements to manage the risk from asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in your premises.’

We have previously set out what should be in an asbestos management plan This includes who is responsible for managing asbestos, your policy, action plans, and all related documents such as previous surveys and your asbestos register.

Priorities should be set and then actioned accordingly. The purpose is to minimise the risk of asbestos exposure from any known or presumed ACMs.

A key component of putting your asbestos management plan into action is communicating it to anyone internally or externally who could potentially disturb asbestos, such as maintenance workers, contractors, and site or building managers.

Once you have an up-to-date management plan, you will need annual asbestos reinspections and asbestos management plan reviews. You will need asbestos refurbishment surveys whenever any refurbishments are planned that could disturb ACMs. Realistically, any intrusive work such as drilling or removal of surface materials will require a refurbishment survey. And, of course, if any demolition work is planned, there is a specific survey for this purpose, called an asbestos demolition survey.

Annual reinspections

Reinspections will be part of any reliable asbestos management plan.

If not removing it, the asbestos will need to be reinspected, as required, and at least annually.

 

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