Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, ALL owners and occupiers (those responsible for maintenance, repair, alteration etc) of commercial premises are under a strict duty to “manage” any asbestos within their premises i.e. establish an Asbestos Management System (AMS) detailing where asbestos is known or not known to exist and its condition with a Register, and suitable systems to prevent harm and/or disturbance.

In practice, this means that all owners/occupiers of any type of commercial premises where employees undertake work or have access must either:

(a) survey for the presence for asbestos – imperative if materials are likely to be disturbed or appear in a poor state of repair

(b) assume materials contain asbestos until proven otherwise; no disturbance to take place until a survey has been undertaken

N.B.  There is no obligation to automatically remove asbestos materials.  However, if asbestos is found to be in poor, loose or friable condition, or where materials are likely to be disturbed; such deposits must be removed at the earliest opportunity and the area sealed against entry in the meantime.

Surveys undertaken must be extensive enough to provide adequate information for both the nature of premises and for any intended disturbance (in accordance with HSG264 Asbestos: The Survey Guide), as follows (it should be noted that the survey terminology has now changed as described):

  • ‘Presumptive’ surveys (formerly Type 1) are visual only and generally inadequate
  • ‘Management’ surveys (formerly Type2) sample and test accessible areas only; this type of survey may be suitable for the day to day management of a building providing there is no disturbance (even minor e.g. drilling) to the fabric
  • ‘Refurbishment’ or ‘Demolition’ surveys (formerly Type 3) are undertaken in much greater depth, sampling and testing inaccessible areas also; this type of survey is vital ahead of any works causing significant disturbance e.g. refurbishment, alteration, modification, removal or demolition.  The extent of the intrusion will depend upon the type of works to be undertaken but MUST be extensive enough to give information about ALL areas to be affected; if affected areas cannot yet be reached, work MUST cease when at that point for further survey work to be undertaken.

Surveys can only be undertaken by fully qualified persons; analysis of samples taken can only be undertaken by UKAS-accredited laboratories.  There various ‘qualifications’ for asbestos surveyors such as the British Occupational Hygiene
Society proficiency modules; however, it is advisable to insist on the Certified Competent Person (CPP) certificate and a good level of PI insurance (take guidance from insurers).

Under NO circumstances can any other person be permitted to disturb any known or suspected asbestos-based materials – the risks are too great

A full report must be held attached to the AMS; and beware – a bad report is useless.  The report must be dated and state the name and qualifications of the surveyor, together with the name and status (i.e. UKAS) of the analytical body.  The report must clearly identify ALL areas surveyed, give FULL details of where ACMs have AND HAVE NOT been identified, and identify areas yet to be surveyed.

The findings of the report can then be incorporated into a well-managed AMS (or ‘Register’).

The AMS or Asbestos Register must be made available to, and the information understood by, any person employed (directly or indirectly) to alter, maintain, disturb or interact with the structure or its fabric in any way.

It is important to realise that the duty to “manage” asbestos means that this AMS (including the Register) must be kept up to date – checks and inspections must be carried out as frequently as necessary to ensure the condition has not deteriorated; this may well require further survey work by the specialist.

There is now no excuse for insufficient asbestos information.  Contractors must never put employees in danger by not requesting the Asbestos Register or absolute proof that no asbestos is present before beginning work.

Contact Wenlock Health & Safety Ltd for further advice.

And, if there is insufficient information or if in doubt…

PRESUME THAT MATERIALS MAY BE ASBESTOS AND DON’T TOUCH!