Managing Asbestos in Buildings

An Overview
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 require that those in control of non-domestic premises effectively manage any asbestos that may be present in the building(s). The interior of buildings may be damaged by people working in them, e.g. during refurbishment work, when fitting cables, equipment, etc or during maintenance work. This means that any exposed asbestos could release fibres into the surrounding areas. It is, therefore, critical that those in charge of the buildings know:
  • where asbestos is located
  • in what condition it is in, and
  • what controls apply if people need to work on or near the asbestos materials.
By removing all asbestos, this will take the hazard away. If there is no asbestos in the building then there is no need to manage it. However, asbestos removal can be expensive. Therefore, in many instances, the asbestos in a non-domestic building may remain. It is a useful policy to aim to remove asbestos over time.

Responsibility for Managing Asbestos

The duty holder who has responsibility for managing asbestos in buildings can vary, depending on who owns or controls the building(s). Where a company owns the workplace, the employer takes on all the responsibilities.

Where a building is leased, the responsibility is shared. The owner may retain the fabric of the building and the separate employer is the occupier of the building. In these circumstances, the owner would need to co-operate with the occupier by supplying all relevant information about where asbestos may be. This would include who was responsible for managing the asbestos in specific locations. While the responsibility for action may rest between both parties, the position needs to be clearly agreed by both of them.
The owner of a building(s) may pass on some or all of the responsibilities for maintaining the premises to a managing agent. In these circumstances, the managing agent may need to manage the asbestos in the premises but the owner would need to ensure that the arrangements discharge the owner's duty.

In some situations, the owner/leaseholder would retain all the responsibilities for the repair and maintenance of the premises. Here the owner/leaseholder would have to take on all the required actions to ensure asbestos materials are located and controls identified. These "'would then have to be discussed with the occupiers to ensure the plans are understood by them.

It can be complicated to identify everybody who needs to be involved. There could be an owner which is a consortium of organisations who have a contractual relationship with several employers in the same building. As these complicated situations can arise, the various parties are under a legal obligation to co-operate with each other. Hence, whatever the contractual arrangements, each party must make sure that their responsibilities are discharged so that no one is exposed to uncontrolled asbestos fibres.

Managing Asbestos

In any management system, it is most effective to have one person responsible for dealing with asbestos. They may delegate tasks to others and asbestos may not be the only work they are responsible for. However, to ensure that clear lines of action and communications exist, one person needs to be in charge.

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