Asbestos and the law: what you need to know
Owners of properties built before 2000 must tackle the issue of asbestos, whether they own one premises or several. Facing this problem head on can ensure that no-one is exposed to the health and safety risks posed by the material, says Neil Munro, director of Acorn Analytical Services.
The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states that every employer must ensure the health, safety and welfare of all employees in the workplace. To fulfil this duty, a strong and effective management plan must be implemented which can be communicated efficiently to and understood fully by everyone who has a duty under the plan.
It’s absolutely essential that companies know and understand the risks posed by asbestos and that they deal with the presence of this potentially harmful material in a controlled manner.
As long as asbestos is managed properly, unintended exposure to it can be stopped, ensuring that individuals’ health and safety is not compromised.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012), Regulation 4 places a legal duty on those who either own, occupy, manage or are responsible for properties that have been built using asbestos. They are legally obligated to either manage the risk posed by this material or liaise and collaborate fully with whoever manages this risk.
In addition, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) place explicit responsibilities on clients to manage the risk posed by asbestos to health and safety.
Ultimately, clients have the final say on what course of action is taken. This means they are legally responsible for making suitable arrangements regarding the management of a project. They must also maintain and review these arrangements continually to ensure that all health and safety risks are managed correctly.
Clients are required to appoint competent individuals and provide them with adequate time, information and resources to complete the job to the necessary standards.
In the event that asbestos needs to be removed, the client must appoint a specialist in asbestos removal.
As clients are legally obligated to hire suitably skilled people to carry out the task, they must make adequate enquires to ensure that contractors are suitably resourced and fully capable of completing the work in a satisfactory manner.
Guidance on CDM 2015 states that: “When considering the requirements for designers and other construction professionals, due weight should also be given to membership of an established professional institution or body. For example, do these bodies have arrangements in place which provide some reassurance that health and safety is part of the route to membership of their profession?”
In 2000, The Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA) announced the introduction of an audit scheme designed to support the performance of its members and thus maintain high standards.
Member contractors are required to participate in this audit scheme to maintain their membership and must undergo two satisfactory site audits each year.
In January 2017, ARCA took steps to improve its audit scheme. These changes were aimed at supporting consistent high standards as well as providing a greater level of reassurance. Members of the association are still required to complete two site audits each year, but these audits are now unannounced, which means that ARCA members (except those in Ireland) won’t know when or where an auditor will assess their performance.
Upon appointing a contractor, a client will be required to provide them with adequate time, information and resources to complete the job to a satisfactory standard. This will allow them to create a suitable work plan as well as fully assess the premises and discuss important information about the site with the client.
To verify that a work area has been fully cleaned and that fibres in the atmosphere are as low as possible before it is handed over, an asbestos analyst must be hired.
As many as 4,500 people die every year in the UK as a result of asbestos-related disease. Additionally, asbestos management failures can lead to significant financial costs.
The Asbestos Removal Contractors Association has published Guidance on Clients’ Responsibilities on appointing Asbestos Contractors to support all clients. It is available to download at here.