Do we need an asbestos report for our building?
The short answer to this question is likely to be yes. If your building was built before the year 2000 then it almost certainly should have an asbestos survey completed to allow you to begin to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations.
Currently between 3500 and 4000 die every year from asbestos-related diseases and by the year 2020 it is predicted that 625,000 deaths directly related to asbestos exposure will have occurred.
The disturbance of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) is still occurring but all these incidents and the exposures they cause are avoidable by ensuring that the asbestos is not disturbed.
According to Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2006), if you own, occupy, manage or have responsibility for property you have a legal duty to assess and manage the risk from ACM.
You must take reasonable steps to identify ACM, if necessary, by presuming the presence of asbestos until proven otherwise.
Where asbestos is located you are required to keep an Asbestos Register which lists where ACM are present, highlight the risks posed and make recommendations.
More often than not the ACM can remain in situ as long as it remains undisturbed
Why is asbestos such a dangerous material?
A campaign launched by the Health & Safety Executive in November highlights the dangers of working with asbestos. RMC directors should be aware of the issues surrounding this dangerous material and make sure they understand their obligation to protect fellow residents, visitors and contractors, should asbestos be present in their building.
Asbestos was used extensively as a building material in the UK from the 1950s to the mid-1980s and any pre-2000 building could contain this potentially hazardous substance, which was most commonly used for fireproofing and insulation. Although building materials containing asbestos aren’t dangerous in themselves, if they are damaged or disturbed any airborne asbestos fibres become extremely dangerous, with the potential to cause fatal respiratory disease. So if repair and maintenance work is being carried out on a building, it is vital to know whether asbestos is likely to be encountered.
Asbestos: are you liable?
An estimated 4000 people a year die from asbestos-related diseases and this figure is increasing (source: HSE). The Control of Asbestos Regulations were introduced in 2006 to reduce exposure to asbestos containing materials (ACMs) by placing a legal obligation on anyone responsible for managing buildings to ensure that asbestos is dealt with safely.
Because the regulations apply to non-domestic premises, RMC directors may wrongly assume they don’t apply to them. However, although individual dwellings do not fall within the compass of the legislation, the common parts of domestic premises – which are the responsibility of the RMC – do. The HSE lists these as areas such as entrance lobbies, corridors, walkways, lifts and lift shafts, staircases, boiler houses, risers, gardens, yards and outhouses. The tenanted parts of a building are excepted but this delineation may not always be as simple as it at first appears and you may need to take professional advice to determine which parts of your building really are ‘common’ areas.
How do I comply with the regulations?
Under the regulations, RMCs are designated ‘dutyholders’ and have a legal obligation to protect residents and others from exposure to asbestos. But if this sounds daunting, don’t worry. There is plenty of information available to help RMC directors understand and comply with the regulations.
The HSE sets out dutyholders ’ obligations as follows:
Either find out if there is asbestos on the premises, its location and what condition it is in, or make a presumption that asbestos is present, unless you have strong evidence to the contrary;
1. Make and keep an up-to-date record of your findings; 2. Set out a plan that details how you will manage any risk 3. Take any steps needed to put the plan into action; 4. Review the plan on a regular basis; and 5. Set up a system for providing information on the location and condition of ACMs for anyone who is likely to work on or disturb them.
It is important to keep a written record of any work carried out and ensure that the building is checked at least once a year to flag up any damage or deterioration to AMCs that needs attention. You must also ensure that anyone who may come into contact with ACMs, such as building contractors, are aware that they may be present so they can take the necessary precautions. Complying with the regulations does not mean removing all asbestos from your building. Your duty is to protect residents and others visiting or working on your building from risk.
One of the duties imposed on RMCs under company law, is to ensure that contractors who carry out work do so properly. Nowhere is this more important than where works involve asbestos. Anyone working on the building, for example telephone engineers, painters and decorators, roofers etc, must be alerted to the possibility of the presence of asbestos. Be aware that you need a trained contractor to work on materials such as asbestos cement, textured coatings or vinyl tiles. Only licensed contractors can work on high-risk materials such as pipe insulation, asbestos insulating panels or sprayed asbestos.