Asbestos

The law (2012 regs) states that anyone responsible for maintenance and repair of a commercial or industrial property has an obligation to identify asbestos in the premises and manage the risk.

Asbestos-related diseases kill more people than any other single work-related cause. All types of asbestos can be dangerous if disturbed. The danger arises when asbestos fibres become airborne. They form a very fine dust and breathing asbestos dust can cause serious damage to the lungs and cause cancer.

Before you commission or do any construction work that is likely to disturb asbestos, you will need to find out if there are any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in the premises or structure.

You need to know:

  • the amount of asbestos;
  • where it is and what condition it is in;
  • whether work is likely to disturb the material; and
  • whether and how the material needs to be safely protected or removed.

For demolition and refurbishment work, it is essential to find out, either from checking existing records (such as the client’s survey, asbestos plan or register) or commissioning a suitable survey before any construction work starts. It is good practice to include the need to survey asbestos and protect or remove it in the initial project cost and programme.

Work with high-risk asbestos products, such as asbestos insulating board, sprayed fire or insulation coatings or lagging, must only be carried out by an asbestos licence holder who works within the conditions of their licence.

For work with lower-risk asbestos products, such as decorative ceiling coatings and corrugated asbestos cement sheets, make sure that workers are properly protected and that you minimise the spread of debris – public fear and bad publicity are all too common, and decontamination costs can be huge.

Training

It is a legal requirement that your workers are trained to know about the health risks associated with asbestos, how to spot it, and what to do if they uncover damaged asbestos.