Asbestos was widely used as a building material throughout the 60s and 70s. Asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers each year, which is more than the number of people killed on the road!
Being a relatively inert substance, so long as asbestos remains in good condition and is undisturbed, it presents no risk. However, if disturbed or damaged, fibres can be released which present a major health hazard and cancer risk. In fact, the process of removal of asbestos from buildings actually presents a higher risk than leaving it in place – and so identification and containment is the modern approach.
2.17.1 Who Has the Duty?
The duty to “manage” asbestos under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 does not apply to domestic property – it only applies to non-domestic. Although the duty does not apply to domestic premises such as private houses, it does apply to the ‘common parts’ of multi-occupancy domestic premises, such as purpose-built flats or houses that are converted into flats. Where there are common parts, whoever is under a duty to keep in repair and maintain those common parts is the ‘duty holder’ under the regulations.
2.17.2 What Is the Duty?
The duty to manage asbestos requires the duty holder to:
- take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic premises, and if so, its amount, where it is and what condition it is in
- presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not
- make, and keep up-to-date, a record of the location and condition of the asbestos- containing materials – or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos
- assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified
- prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed
- take the necessary steps to put the plan into action
- periodically review and monitor the plan and the arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up-to-date
- provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.
2.17.3 Removing Asbestos
If the materials are high risk (e.g. pipe insulation and asbestos insulating panels), you will need to employ a licensed contractor. If the materials are lower risk (e.g. asbestos cement sheets and roofing) then an unlicensed but competent and trained contractor may carry out the work.
2.17.4 More Information
The approved code of practice (ACOP) titled ‘Managing and working with asbestos’ should be consulted for more information and is available on the Health and Safety Executive website – http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/books/l143.htm.
In addition, the HSE website has a dedicated section to working with asbestos here – http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/index.htm.