If you own, occupy, manage or have responsibilities for premises which may contain asbestos, you will have either.
A legal duty to manage the risk from this material, or
A duty to co-operate with whoever manages that risk
Rhodes Asbestos’ guidance will help you decide how to identify, assess and manage any asbestos containing materials (ACMs) on your premises. A good strategy to manage these materials will help you to prevent risk to workers or others who may use the premises.
What’s the duty to manage asbestos?
If you are an employer, you already have a legal duty to prevent the exposure of your employees to asbestos, or if this is not possible to reduce it to the lowest possible level.
A duty to manage asbestos has been added to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 and carried forward to the 2012 Regulations. This requires you to manage the risk from asbestos by:
- Finding out if there is asbestos in the premises, its amount and what condition it is in
- Presuming materials contain asbestos, unless you have strong evidence that they do not
- Making and keeping up to date a record of the location and condition of the ACMs or presumed ACMs in your premises
- Assessing the risk from the material
- Preparing a plan that sets out in detail how you are going to manage the risk from this material
- Taking the steps needed to put your plan into action
- Reviewing and monitoring your plan and the arrangements made to put it in place
- Providing information on the location and condition of the material to anyone who is liable to work on it or disturb it
- Anyone with any interest in the property will have a duty to co-operate with employers to enable them to manage the risk.
How do you comply with the duty?
If you have any doubts about any of the material in your premises you presume it contains asbestos.
Survey and sample for asbestos
In some cases, where you have no maintenance work planned and/or the premises are small, it may be appropriate for you to carry out your own inspection. However, you may choose to employ a suitably trained person to do a survey of the premises to identify ACMs, particularly you are planning maintenance or refurbishment of the premises. They may also be able to advise you on what you need to do and what to include in your management plan. You should ask the person or organisation:
for evidence of their training and experience in such work
whether they are going to carry out the survey in accordance with the HSE guidance for surveying, sampling and assessment of asbestos-containing materials – the surveying guide is HSG 264 and the sampling analysis guide is in HSG 248
for evidence that they have suitable liability insurance
You may also need samples of materials analysed, that you suspect might contain asbestos. Often, this is the only certain way of identifying if a material does contain asbestos. Samples should only be taken by suitably trained people.
Do not break or damage any material which may contain asbestos to try to identify it. The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) has developed an accreditation scheme for organisations that do asbestos surveys. UKAS already has a separate accreditation scheme for sampling and analysis of asbestos in materials. An accredited company is likely to employ suitably trained people for these types of work. But you should check what the firm is accredited for, as some will only be qualified to do surveys and take samples and others only to analyse samples.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors and the British Institute of Occupational Hygienists are proposing to develop personnel certification schemes for individuals who undertake asbestos surveys.
Personnel certification schemes do not necessarily look at the quality of the procedures and systems used by the whole organisation, whereas the UKAS accreditation scheme will have assessed these.
Surveys should be undertaken by competent people, for example laboratory analysts, suitably trained building surveyors or specialist asbestos removal contractors, with the appropriate accreditation/ certification.
The survey will have identified what type of ACMs are present and where they are.
There are two further stages to consider before you can fully develop your risk assessment – what condition are the ACMs in and are they being disturbed or likely to be disturbed?
Assess the condition of any ACMs
The type of ACM, the amount of it and its condition will determine its potential to release asbestos fibres into the air, if disturbed.
The condition of ACMs can be considered by addressing a series of questions:
- Is the surface of the material damaged, frayed or scratched?
- Are the surface sealants peeling or breaking off?
- Is the material becoming detached from its base (this is a particular problem with pipe and boiler lagging and sprayed coatings).
- Are protective coverings, designed to protect the material, missing or damaged?
- Is there asbestos dust or debris from damage near the material?
If the ACMs in your premises are in poor condition you will have to arrange repairs or have them sealed, closed or removed.
Record where the asbestos or presumed asbestos is and its condition
You need to prepare a drawing or some other record which shows where the asbestos or presumed asbestos is, the type if known, its form, its amount and what condition it is in. The drawing should be simple, clear and always available at the premises so that you, or any other person that needs to know where the ACMs are, can easily find them. If it is stored electronically via the Internet, it can be easier to update.
There may be some areas of the premises which you cannot look at, such as in roofs, in heating ducts, behind wall partitions or behind ceiling tiles. You should note these on your drawing and presume ACMs may be present, unless you have strong evidence to support otherwise.
Assess the potential risk from the ACMs
You must assess whether the ACMs are being or are likely to be disturbed. Usually disturbance is created by people working on or near the ACMs. You will need to assess the likelihood of each ACM being disturbed to decide what action to take to manage and control the potential risks. To do this, you will need to consider the following factors:
- the information gathered on the location, amount and condition of the ACM
- if the ACM is in a position where it is likely to be disturbed
- how much ACM is present
- whether there is easy access to the ACM
- whether people work near the ACM in a way that is liable to disturb it
- if it is close to areas in which people normally work when it is disturbed
- the numbers of people who use the area where the ACM is
- if maintenance work, refurbishment or other work on the premises is likely to be carried out where the ACM is
You will need to prepare and implement a plan to manage these risks.
Decide what to do
Asbestos in good condition:
If the asbestos is:
- in good condition
- is not likely to be damaged
- is not likely to be worked on or disturbed
it is usually safer to leave it in place and manage it.
Asbestos in poor condition:
If the asbestos is in poor condition or is likely to be damaged or disturbed you will need to decide whether it should be repaired, sealed, enclosed or removed.
If you are unsure of the condition of the asbestos and cannot decide what action to take, seek specialist advice.