The duty to manage asbestos is included in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The duty requires asbestos within non-domestic premises to be managed by:

  1. Locating asbestos within in the premises (or assessing if ACMs are liable to be present and making a presumption that materials contain asbestos, unless you have strong evidence that they do not)
  2. Assessing the condition and risk of any asbestos identified;
  3. Making and keeping an up-to-date record of the location and condition of the ACMs or presumed ACMs in your premises;
  4. Preparing a plan that sets out in detail how you are going to manage the risk from this material;
  5. taking the steps needed to put your plan into action;
  6. reviewing and monitoring your plan and the arrangements made to put it in place; and
  7. setting up a system for providing information on the location and condition of the material to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb it.

There is evidence of the ancient Egyptians used asbestos! Asbestos was first commercially imported to the UK in the late 1800s, so if your building has had any work or refurbishment since that date there is a strong possibility it will contain asbestos – no matter how old it is. The guidelines state any building pre-2000 should be presumed to contain asbestos.

The use of some forms of asbestos were not banned until 1999 in the UK and there have been cases of asbestos being found in post-2000 builds. However, the guidelines state that any building post-2000 can be presumed to be asbestos free.

The legal duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises states that the first requirement is to locate and assess the condition of any asbestos within the building.

If you have any intrusive maintenance planned it is a legal requirement to have a refurbishment/demolition survey.

This section tells you what you need to do to comply with the duty. There is a checklist setting out the whole process of managing the risk from asbestos further on in this leaflet. You can use this to check that you are taking the right steps. If you prefer, the HSE website hosts a web-based tool to take you through the steps (www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/managing/index.htm).

Although you may appoint a competent person to carry out all or part of the work to meet the requirements of the duty, you will have to be involved in the final assessment of the potential risk. In particular, you will know how the premises are used and what disturbance is likely to occur. The section ‘Step 2 – Assess the condition of any ACMs’ provides advice on doing this.

Remember, the responsibility for complying with the duty to manage the potential risk remains yours if you are responsible for maintaining relevant parts of a building.

Step 1 Find out if asbestos is present

Was the building built or refurbished before 2000?

If Yes, assume asbestos is present.

If No, asbestos is unlikely to be present – no action required.

Do you already have information on asbestos in your building?

Walk around your building to identify all ACMs or presumed ACMs, including areas not normally visited like roof voids, store rooms etc.

ACMs may be present if the building was constructed or refurbished before 2000. All asbestos use was prohibited by 1999. You need to do all that you reasonably can to find them by looking at building plans and any other relevant information, such as builders’ invoices, which may tell you if and where asbestos was used in the construction or refurbishment of the premises; carrying out a thorough inspection of the premises both inside and out to identify materials that are, or may be asbestos; and consulting others, such as the architects, employees or safety representatives, who may be able to provide you with more information and who have a duty of co-operation to make this available.

If the building’s age or the information you obtain provide strong evidence that no ACMs are present, then you do not need to do anything other than to record why this evidence indicates there is no asbestos present. If you are not experienced with buildings or the forms of asbestos it is advisable to instruct an accredited company to undertake a full asbestos survey.

You should always presume any material contains asbestos unless there is strong evidence to suggest it does not. Some material obviously does not contain asbestos such as glass, solid wooden doors, floorboards, bricks and stone.

Step 2 Assess the condition of any ACMs

Assess the amount and condition of any ACMs, or presumed ACMs in the building to tell you how likely they are to release asbestos fibres into the air. The type of ACM, the amount of it and its condition will determine its potential to release asbestos fibres into the air, if disturbed. This will help you decide what you need to do next. The condition of ACMs can be considered by addressing a series of questions:

  • Is the surface of the material damaged, frayed or scratched?
  • Are the surface sealants peeling or breaking off?
  • Is the material becoming detached from its base? (This is a particular problem with pipe and boiler lagging and sprayed coatings.)
  • Are protective coverings, designed to protect the material, missing or damaged?
  • Is there asbestos dust or debris from damage near the material?

If the ACMs in your premises are in poor condition, you will have to arrange repairs or have them sealed, enclosed or removed.

Next:

If you have decided to presume material is asbestos and have no maintenance or repair work planned, nor any suspected ACMs in poor condition, you can move straight to Step 4.

If you do have ACMs in poor condition, or are planning to do work, or want to be sure whether asbestos is present, move to Step 3.

Remember, if you are presuming its asbestos but then want to do work at a later stage, you will either have to go to Step 3 or make sure the work is carried out with full asbestos safety precautions.

Step 3 Survey and sample for asbestos

Have a suitably trained person conduct a survey to identify ACMs.

Have the materials analysed to prove if asbestos is present, and what type it is.

You may choose to employ a suitably trained person to do a survey of the premises to identify ACMs, particularly if you are planning maintenance or refurbishment of the premises or installing wiring or pipework/ ducting. The survey should identify what types of ACMs are present, where they are and what condition they are in. You should ask the person or organisation if they are accredited or certificated for asbestos survey work, for evidence of their training and experience in such work; and for evidence that they have suitable liability insurance.

HSE provides further information on asbestos surveys in its guidance document HSG264 Asbestos: The survey guide.

If you suspect materials contain asbestos, you may need to have samples analysed. Often, this is the only certain way of identifying if a material does contain asbestos. Samples should only be taken by suitably trained people.

Do not break or damage any material which may contain asbestos to try to identify it.

Organisations that sample and analyse asbestos need to be accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). UKAS also run an accreditation scheme for organisations that do asbestos surveys. An accredited company is likely to employ suitably trained people for these types of work, but you should check what the firm is accredited for, as some will only be qualified to do surveys and take samples and others only to analyse samples (the UKAS website address is: www.ukas.com).

Surveys may also be undertaken by other competent surveyors who have the appropriate combination of qualifications and experience. Firms are generally listed in Yellow Pages and other business directories. Organisations that carry out asbestos analysis and identification are listed under ‘laboratories’ or ‘asbestos analysts’. Alternatively, you can contact UKAS, see www.ukas.com/tools/contact-ukas.asp.

Step 4 Keep a written record or register

Write down the ACMs you have found, where they are and their condition.

Record the roles and responsibilities for managing asbestos in your organisation. You need to prepare a record that shows where the asbestos or presumed asbestos is, the type if known, its form, and what condition it is in. This record needs to be simple, clear and always available at the premises so that you, or any other person that needs to know where the ACMs are, can easily find them. It could be a plan or diagram, a written list or a computer-based record – storing it electronically can make it easier to update.

There may be some areas of the premises which you cannot look at, such as in roofs and heating ducts and behind wall partitions. You should note these on your drawing and presume ACMs may be present, unless you have strong evidence for thinking this is highly unlikely. If you have employed an external organisation to conduct a survey for you, they should provide you with a written record or with the information so you can create your own.

Step 5 Act on your findings

Your plan should include passing on your asbestos register to any worker/contractor carrying out maintenance work on your property.

Assess the potential risk from the ACMs – how likely are they to be disturbed?

Draw up a priority plan for action.

You must assess whether the ACMs are being, or are likely to be disturbed. Consider the following factors:

  • the information gathered on the location, amount and condition of the ACM;
  • if the ACM is in a position where it is likely to be disturbed;
  • how much ACM is present;
  • whether there is easy access to the ACM;
  • whether people work near the ACM in a way that is liable to disturb it;
  • if it is close to areas in which people normally work when it is disturbed;
  • the numbers of people who use the area where the ACM is; and
  • if maintenance work, refurbishment or other work on the premises is likely to be carried out where the ACM is.

You will need to prepare and implement a plan to manage these risks:

Give high priority to damaged material and materials likely to be disturbed; these will need to be repaired, sealed, enclosed or removed using trained personnel – if unsure, seek specialist advice from an asbestos surveyor, a laboratory or a licensed contractor.

If the material is in good condition and is unlikely to be worked on or disturbed, it is usually safer to leave it in place and manage it.