Regulation 4 'The duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises' of 'The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006' (CAR) requires all commercial businesses to comply. Every employer (Duty Holder) must identify and manage any asbestos found in their premises, prepare an Asbestos Management Plan, carry out risk assessments and maintain an Asbestos Register detailing the probable exposure to asbestos by their employees and to third party contractors for a period of 40 years.
The legislation also applies to the communal or shared areas of rented domestic properties like stairways or plant rooms in blocks of flats for example.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) gives the following guidance in the form of eight tasks on how to comply with the legislation.
- 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 an up to date record of the location and condition of 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;
- Prepare a 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 periodically; and
- Provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.
So let's assume you are going to commission an asbestos surveyor to carry out an inspection of your premises. The resultant survey report and risk assessment will satisfy tasks 1 to 4 almost! You will have to implement some sort of periodic review or re-inspection.
Tasks 5 to 7 are down to you. Most of the information you need will be in the asbestos survey report under recommended control and management actions. You just need to write down how and when you are going to carry them out.
Last but not least is task 8, which is one of the most important and can be fully satisfied by an asbestos register which should be a separate document that gives easy to read information with a floor plan showing anyone from the janitor to the boiler repair man exactly where asbestos is located and what condition it is in.
You need to implement some systems or procedures whereby the register is a recognised living document that staff know how to use and show to the relevant people. Your asbestos surveyor can advise you on permit-to-work systems and staff awareness training if required.
Following the survey of your premises, you should be prepared for the possibility that some materials may be in poor condition and need immediate remedial action. Remember to budget for that too.
Finally, the aim of the legislation is not to secure the removal of all asbestos in buildings. In fact the Health and Safety Executive view removal as the final and least favoured option in managing asbestos safely. There are many other solutions to seal and encapsulate asbestos products to prevent fibre release. If properly controlled and maintained, there is no reason why asbestos containing materials cannot remain in use for many years.
Failure to comply with the new legislation could leave you liable to prosecution with severe consequences such as:
- Closure of part or all of your business.
- Fines of up to £20,000 for individuals or unlimited fines for companies.
- Up to two years in prison.
- Disqualification of directors.
The legislation has been put in place to protect the health of building maintenance and allied trade workers e.g. builders, plumbers, electricians and cable installers who are unknowingly working on asbestos containing materials and exposing themselves to the deadly fibres.
Currently in the UK, asbestos related diseases kill more people per year than traffic accidents and this is expected to rise threefold in the next ten years.
When asbestos is in good condition and left undisturbed, it poses no significant health risks. The danger arises when asbestos is damaged by general wear and tear during the use of the building or it is disturbed by repair or maintenance work.
Asbestos was imported into this country because of its many valuable properties. It was cheap, versatile, light and a good insulation material for fire proofing and lagging purposes. At the height of its popularity between 1960 to the mid '70's it was used in over 3000 building products such as floor tiles, pipe lagging, textured paints (Artex), internal partitions, central heating systems, roofs, gutters, rainwater downpipes, cement cladding, fire protection to structural steelwork, fuse boxes, bitumen products and many, many more before the potentially deadly properties of asbestos were known.