A guide to managing asbestos
If you own, or are responsible for the maintenance of any property, you have a duty under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 to manage the risk of any asbestos that may be in the premises.
Follow these steps to identify the action you need to take to manage the asbestos risk in your building:
1. Establish if asbestos is present
The first step in finding out if there is asbestos in your building is to think when it was built.
Because asbestos use was so prevalent in construction up until its ban in 1999, if your property was built or refurbished at any time before 2000, you should assume that asbestos will be present in some form. If your property was built after 2000 however, it is unlikely that there will be any asbestos present (find out about where asbestos could be found in your property here).
In the initial stages, you should do as much as you reasonably can to identify if there are any asbestos containing materials (ACM) by looking at building plans and records that may tell you if and where asbestos was used during the construction or refurbishment of the property. However, building plans may not always include the materials used, and asbestos is not always visibly identifiable so you may need to have a trained asbestos contractor survey the premises.
Asbestos survey and sample
Taking and analysing samples of any suspected ACM is often the only way to know for certain whether there is any asbestos present in a building (and what type of asbestos it is).
Asking a trained asbestos survey contractor will help you identify whether there is asbestos in your property, where it is and what condition it is in. Any contractor that carries out your asbestos survey and takes samples must have accreditation to do so from UKAS.
There are two types of asbestos survey that you can choose from: an asbestos management survey and a refurbishment and demolition survey.
A management survey is non-intrusive, so staff may be able to remain onsite while the survey is being carried out. If you are not planning any maintenance or refurbishment work, a management survey will likely be sufficient - however it is important to remember that even if no asbestos is found during this type of survey, that does not necessarily mean that there are no ACM present at all.
If you are planning any refurbishment (including work such as installing wiring or pipework) you will need to undertake a refurbishment and demolition (R&D) survey. An R&D survey is much more intrusive than a management survey and can include breaking into cavity walls or looking for asbestos under floorboards.
For more information on asbestos surveys, read our previous article on the different types of asbestos survey and when you may need one.
2. Assess the condition of any asbestos containing materials
The next step to determine how to suitably manage the asbestos in your building is to identify how much asbestos there is, what condition it is in and how likely it is to release fibres.
According to the HSE, when looking at the condition of ACM, you should consider the following:
- Is the surface damaged or scratched?
- Are any sealants on the surface breaking or peeling off?
- Is the material becoming detached from its base? (A common problem with pipe and boiler lagging and sprayed coatings)
- Are any protective coverings missing or damaged?
- If the material is damaged, is there any asbestos dust nearby?
Not all ACM are considered dangerous if they are in good condition, however, if you find any asbestos materials that are damaged or otherwise in poor condition, you should arrange for them to be encapsulated or removed as soon as possible.
3. Keep a record of asbestos
If you find or suspect that there is asbestos in your building, you need to keep a written record that includes:
- What the ACM are
- Where they are
- What condition they are in
- Your organisation’s roles and responsibilities for managing asbestos
This record should be simple and clearly written and needs to be available at all times on the premises so that anyone who needs to know where ACM are can easily find/avoid them
Create an asbestos management plan
As the basis for your plan, you should determine how likely it is that asbestos containing materials will be (or are currently being) disturbed.
When putting your plan together, as well as the information you have already gathered for your regular record keeping, you should consider:
- Is there easy access to where the asbestos is?
- Is the asbestos in an area that is close to where people usually work?
- How many people use the area where the asbestos is?
- Do people work near asbestos materials in a way that could disturb it?
- Is maintenance or refurbishment work likely to be carried out where the asbestos is?
Once you have a clear view of all the asbestos on the premises, you can create a prioritised plan of action.
If there are any asbestos materials that are damaged or very likely to be disturbed, these should be dealt with as a priority. Depending on what these materials are and to what degree they are damaged, they will need to either be encapsulated or removed by a trained/licensed asbestos contractor. If you are unsure whether ACM need to be removed or if they can be sealed, a trained asbestos survey/removal contractor will be able to advise you on the best course of action.
Asbestos is at its most dangerous during removal, so if ACM are in good condition and are unlikely to be disturbed, it is usually safer to leave them in place and manage them. However, a licensed contractor will be able to advise you on how suitable this approach is for the materials in your property.
If you do choose to leave any ACM that are in a good enough condition in place, be sure to include this in your records. To properly manage any asbestos materials in your property be sure to:
- Regularly inspect ACM (without coming into contact with or disturbing it yourself) and update your records to reflect their current condition
- Make everyone (e.g. maintenance or construction workers) who needs to know about the asbestos aware of its presence. If someone will be carrying out work near to the asbestos, be sure to make them aware of it before the work begins
- Either label the ACM or keep a clear record of exactly which items are made from asbestos (you may also choose to keep note of surrounding items that do not include asbestos to avoid confusion)
- Regularly review the effectiveness of your action plan
BLS Asbestos are a HSE licensed contractor with over 20 years’ experience in conducting asbestos surveys and removals from residential, commercial and industrial properties.
To find out more about our asbestos management services or to discuss your removal requirements, please call us on 01484 400558 or get in touch via the website.
Published: 5th April 2018
Author: Charles Burke
Charles is currently the Managing Director of BLS Asbestos and has nearly 20 years experience within the asbestos surveying and removal business.
His main priority is ensuring that the business always operates within the necessary health and safety guidelines that look after both his staff and clients when removing asbestos. This is further backed-up by his BSc Occupational Health and Safety degree that he attained at the University of Leeds.
Find out more about Charles' skills and accreditations within the asbestos removal industry via his LinkedIn page.
"BLS Asbestos provide a professional and quality service enabling Hanover to deal with issues arising from the management of asbestos in compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006."
Asbestos Removal from Social Housing for Hanover Housing