If you are an employer, you already have a legal duty to prevent the exposure of your employees to asbestos, or if that is not possible to reduce it to the lowest possible level.
What is the new duty?
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, places a duty on all employers to minimise exposure to airborne asbestos fibres in all places of work. This duty requires the management of all asbestos in non-domestic premises. This duty applies to those persons responsible for the management and maintenance of the premises.
What will you need to do to comply with the new duty?
The new Regulations will require employers and other duty holders to manage asbestos in premises for which they are responsible. The main focus of the Duty to Manage Regulation is to protect maintenance workers, which have been identified as the group most at risk from exposure to asbestos fibres.
- Locate the asbestos. Duty holders must first assess whether asbestos is or is liable to be present in their properties. This is not a duty to survey although a survey may be needed, depending on what is found during the initial assessment. For example, if the building was built after 1985 then it is unlikely to contain asbestos containing materials. In some cases, however, asbestos containing materials, such as asbestos cement, were used up to 1999.If asbestos is identified by an inspection or survey, or there is good reason to suppose that it is present, the duty holders must take further steps to manage any potential risk. If there is an unknown material then this must be presumed to contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence to suggest otherwise. Samples of asbestos should only be taken by suitably trained people. Do not break or damage any material which may contain asbestos to try and identify it.
- Identify and record The first step is to try to quantify the risk by looking at the type of asbestos, its location, the condition it is in and the likelihood of it being disturbed. This information should be recorded and made available to anyone liable to work on it or disturb it.
- Produce a plan to manage the risks A written plan then needs to be produced which details the measures to be taken to minimise the risk to anyone working on or near the asbestos containing materials. The measures should include periodic monitoring of the condition of the material, maintenance and dissemination of information to those who may go near it.
The person(s) appointed the task of drawing up a management plan should ideally have:
- Knowledge of the buildings and processes within them
- Control over contractors brought onto site
- Knowledge of future refurbishment programmes
- Knowledge and experience of asbestos
- Access to senior management to influence decisions
- Organisation and IT skills
A safe system of work will need to be introduced if there is likelihood that asbestos containing materials are present. A permit-to-work procedure may be required depending on the size and complexity of the premises. This will ensure that anyone potentially at risk receives information on the location and condition of the material.
The plan has to be reviewed regularly, especially if there are changes to the premises.
Asbestos containing materials which are in good condition and which are not likely to be disturbed should be left in place and their condition monitored.
Most work on asbestos insulation, asbestos insulation board and lagging, including sealing and removal, should normally be done by a contractor licensed by the HSE.
Once the law is in place, it will be enforced and organisations will face penalties for failure to comply.
The new duty to manage asbestos has attracted the need for supporting guidance to assist duty holders in complying with their responsibilities. A useful introduction to the requirements of the new duty is provided in the free leaflet "Managing Asbestos in Premises". The HSE has also developed additional, more detailed, management guidance geared towards assisting those with responsibility to the more complex premises ( HSG 227 ).
It is your duty to comply with Regulation 4 of The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, inspections of health and safety premises will be carried by enforcement officers and should it be found that this duty has not been carried out more formal action will be undertaken by this authority.
For further information see the Asbestos Homepage on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website below: