Past exposure to asbestos currently kills 3000 people a year in Great Britain, the number is expected to go on rising for the next ten years. Asbestos is only a risk to health if asbestos fibres are released into the air and breathed in.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 make it a requirement to manage asbestos in buildings. A step by step approach can be applied in managing asbestos:
1. Identify the Duty Holder - the person responsible for the repair and maintenance of the building
2. Assume asbestos may be present if the building was built before 2000
3. Find out if you already have information on asbestos in the building - a previous survey or Asbestos Register, which can be used as a starting point
4. Walk around your building - presume or confirm asbestos is present. if you do not have the expertise to do this yourself you may need to get advice from somebody who does.
5. Keep a written record or register
6. Act on your findings - prioritising damaged material or those likely to be disturbed for action over materials in good condition unlikely to be disturbed
7. Tell people (contractors etc) where the asbestos is. Agree precautions to prevent exposure. Certain work can only be done by a licensed contractor.
8. Keep the records up to date
These 8 simple steps are taken from http://www.hse.gov.uk/pubns/manageasbestos.pdf
Asbestos can easily be managed - for example:
- a material presumed or known to contain asbestos, in good condition and unlikely to be damaged could be encapsulated (painted/boxed etc) and contractors notified of its presence so they don’t disturb it.
- Fraying asbestos lagging around disused boiler pipework in a room periodically accessed by plumbers and electricians might need more thorough remedial work by a competent registered operative - and this would be identified in a management plan.
Duty Holders that have had an Asbestos Survey or have an Asbestos Register indicating the presence of asbestos need to use that information as part of an asbestos management plan. The survey or register is not enough on its own.
Duty holders that do not know if there is asbestos in their building cannot assume that none is present. If you are uncertain, you must be presumed asbestos is present until such time that it can be determined by a more thorough survey.
A duty holder should not rely on surveys undertaken for different purposes, such as structural or architects survey for example, unless they explicitly state they include an Asbestos Survey performed by a 'competent person'.
For comprehensive health and safety advice about asbestos, including what it looks like and where it is most likely to be found, please refer to: