Asbestos removal and management for retailers

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A proper asbestos management plan should be a key part of the maintenance regime for any retailer, as it will help to prevent staff and customers being exposed to the fibres that can cause terminal illnesses.

Any building constructed before the use of asbestos was banned in 2000 may contain the substance and there is a legal duty to manage asbestos risks in premises of that age. The process involves an asbestos survey, a formal plan and, where appropriate, the safe removal and disposal of the substance.

Before beginning the work, you will need to identify who the asbestos dutyholder is for the premises. It is a legal requirement to have a dutyholder, who can be either the property owner, the tenant or a managing agent, and a proper tenancy agreement should clearly indicate who has the responsibility. If you run a chain of stores, you may choose to put a central maintenance team or manager in charge of dealing with asbestos.

In some circumstances, responsibility for managing asbestos risks may be shared between the leaseholder and property owner. This is not unusual in multi-occupancy buildings, where the owner may choose to accept responsibility for common parts but state that tenants must manage the risk in the premises they occupy.

Asbestos surveys in retail premises

Asbestos surveys in retail environments need careful planning

The starting point for any asbestos management plan is to have a comprehensive asbestos survey undertaken by a qualified surveyor. It is a requirement of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 to carry out an assessment to ascertain whether the substance is present in the building, where it is located and what its condition is, and hiring an expert is the most effective way to do it.

It may be that a survey was commissioned by the previous tenant or owner, which could be used as a basis for the plan. However, it is good practice to have a new one completed when first moving in to retail premises to check that nothing was missed and that the condition of any asbestos containing materials has not deteriorated.

In an ideal world, the asbestos surveyor would be given access to the premises before they are occupied, as it is easier to inspect places such as roof voids and lift shafts when the building is empty. If the store is already open, surveying can be a long process, as areas from which samples are to be taken for testing will need to be cleared and then made safe for staff and customers before they can be used again.

This can involve a significant amount of planning and, in larger stores, a series of overnight visits. That would allow time for shelves and rails to be moved to reach difficult to access spots while the shop is closed and for a post-sampling clean-up to be carried out before it reopens.

The information gathered during the survey will form the basis of the site asbestos management plan. It must include a register of asbestos containing materials, showing where in the building they are located and what their condition is. That knowledge will enable regular checks to be made to ensure none of them are deteriorating to a point at which they pose a danger to health.

It should also inform decisions about day-to-day operations by, for example, listing parts of the ceiling and walls that should not be used to hang displays from because of the risk of disturbing asbestos insulating board. Seemingly insignificant actions such as fixing a promotional poster to a wall with drawing pins can have major consequences if they result in staff or customers being exposed to asbestos, so it is crucial that this part of the plan is as detailed as possible.

The register must be made available to maintenance staff and contractors to allow them to properly plan their work. They need to be aware of where asbestos containing materials are located to ensure they take all the relevant safety measures, including wearing the right PPE and, if necessary, segregating part of the store while the work and subsequent clean-up are completed.

Asbestos refurbishment and demolition surveys

If you intend to demolish part of a retail premises or to undertake any kind of refurbishment work, you will require a special asbestos survey before the project can begin. A standard asbestos survey is not sufficient for this purpose.

A specialist asbestos surveyor will be able to tell you precisely what kind of survey you need for the project you are planning, but it will involve a significant amount of testing in order to locate all asbestos containing materials in the area concerned.

The information contained in the surveyor’s report will enable you and your contractors to either remove the asbestos before work commences or plan the job to ensure it is not disturbed.

Asbestos removal from retail premises

Asbestos removal is a skilled job

If any of the asbestos found by the management survey is in a poor or deteriorating condition, it will almost certainly need to be removed. You may also choose to remove asbestos containing materials from the store as a safety measure, in order to avoid any chance of fibres being disturbed during day-to-day activities or maintenance work.

Works involving asbestos are strictly regulated and are divided into three categories depending on the level of risk; licensed work, notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW) and non-licensed work.

Licensed work includes removal of asbestos insulating board, insulation and sprayed coatings, and can only be undertaken by a contractor with the relevant licence. Similarly the debris can only be transported by a company with a licence to transport hazardous waste and disposed of at a licensed site.

NNLW covers work with friable asbestos containing materials and damaged materials bonded in a matrix, such as removal of textured decorative coatings and asbestos cement roof sheets. Types of work that are non-licensed include low-risk maintenance jobs and the removal of entire asbestos cement sheets where it can be done without breaking them up.

While NNLW and non-licensed work can legally be carried out by other contractors, it requires a significant amount of planning, proper training of staff and use of the correct equipment, protective clothing and HSE-approved working methods. Many companies that need this type of work completing choose to use a licensed asbestos contractor because they have all the necessary expertise and equipment to get the job done safely and quickly.

BLS Asbestos have significant experience of dealing with asbestos in the retail sector, having worked with chains, banks, pubs and shop refurbishment contractors across the UK. We have licences to work with asbestos insulation and asbestos insulation board, and to transport hazardous waste.

For advice, information about dealing with asbestos or to arrange for a quote, please call us on 01484 400558 or contact us via the website.

Published: 21st May 2015