Asbestos & Farm Management

Many older buildings contain potentially hazardous asbestos material which can be harmful to human health when damaged or disturbed. This includes many farm buildings built before the year 2000.

EMS's HR & Health and Safety Consultants CXCS, based in Hereford, spoke to Jamie Perkins-Best, who has more than 25 years’ experience as an asbestos consultant and is a director at the Herefordshire-based Environmental Management Solutions, to find out the legalities of managing buildings built before 2000, the regulations associated with working with asbestos and how it should be removed and disposed of safely.


1.     Asbestos? Surely that was banned a long time ago, why do I need to worry?

Asbestos still kills over 5,000 people in the UK each year, so yes, it can be very hazardous to their health. Asbestos is the UK’s largest occupational killer.

Asbestos wasn’t banned in the UK until 1999 and it is estimated that asbestos remains in around 1.5million buildings in the UK, so it is still very relevant and one of the topics high on the HSE’s agenda.


2.     Why do I need an asbestos survey?

There is a legal duty to manage asbestos in all ‘non-domestic’ properties. This includes all buildings used commercially, built before 2000. This applies to offices and factories, but also farm buildings and even the gardeners shed on large estates!

Residential premises are generally excluded however there are a few exceptions. Places such as Hotels and Care Homes are classed as commercial even though they provide accommodation. In blocks of shared accommodation, the communal areas are deemed commercial whilst the living areas are domestic. Therefore, the stairwells, landings, plant rooms etc will need a survey.

It can get more confusing if you employ people that work on properties (including domestic) as there is a legal duty to provide them with a safe place to work and that would include having an asbestos survey, even if the property is domestic.

You have to be a competent person to produce the survey and it is strongly recommended by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) that you use a surveying company that is UKAS (UK accreditation service) accredited. The first step of managing asbestos is to locate and assess the condition of all asbestos materials onsite by having a survey, the basic level survey is called a ‘management survey’.

The results of the survey should then be included within your Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) for the building(s).


3.     What is an Asbestos Management Plan?

The UK have regulations called ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012’. Regulation 4 puts a legal duty to manage asbestos by means of having a written plan. An Asbestos Management Plan (AMP).

The complexity of the document will reflect the amount of asbestos or diversity of the portfolio, however mostly it can be a simple document detailing where the asbestos is, how you will make sure people do not disturb it and that the material is monitored to make sure it stays in good condition.


4.     What other key things do I need to manage my asbestos?

The first thing as a business you should do is establish who is the responsible person, or team of people, who will manage the asbestos. It is important that these people are competent to undertake the tasks allocated to them.

Then, once you know where your asbestos is, you need to review the recommendations of the survey, remedial work may be required to keep people safe.

You need to consider how you are going to protect the asbestos materials, to make sure they do not become damaged. This applies to people who use the building everyday but also those that undertake maintenance on the building. ‘Relevant information needs to be supplied to relevant people’, consider how you will manage this.

It is also a legal requirement to regularly inspect asbestos materials, to make sure they are not being damaged or deteriorating. The frequency will depend on the vulnerability of the materials, but it must be a minimum of every 12months.


5.     My building needs asbestos remedial work do I need a specialist contractor?

Work with asbestos is classified into two categories: licensed and non-licensed. Licensed work requires a specialist contractor. Non-licensed work does not necessarily require a specialist contractor; however they must still be competent and all H&S regulations still apply.

The way ACM’s are categorised is by the ease of which they can release asbestos fibres when disturbed.

For example, work which normally requires a licensed asbestos contractor includes work with asbestos insulation board (AIB), asbestos lagging (usually found on pipes and in boiler rooms) and loose asbestos insulation (found in voids and loft spaces).

Examples of non-licensed asbestos materials, which still requires a competent person, include asbestos cement, asbestos roof tiles and asbestos textured coatings. This is due to the asbestos fibres being tightly bound in a matrix, and therefore the likelihood of their release is much less.

It is always best to seek specialist advice, but if you plan to undertake non-licensed works consult the HSE’s Asbestos Task Manual, which is available online and this will guide you through the requirements.


6.     I need to demolish an old asbestos building on my farm. What must I do?

A demolition asbestos survey is a legal requirement prior to demolition of any type of building and this must be carried out by a competent person.

A demolition survey is more intrusive than a management survey and may break into areas of the structure that are not easily accessed on everyday use of the property. Again, the HSE strongly recommends using a UKAS accredited company.


7.     I am not demolishing my building, but will be carrying out refurbishment, what do I need?

The third type of survey is a refurbishment survey, this is sits between management and demolition surveys and should be designed to fit exactly what you are planning to do, so the survey covers anything that may be disturbed. We have clients who are painters and decorators, and their surveys are only slightly more intrusive than a management survey right or alternatively ranging to to where a building is being stripped back to the structure. They can be also specifically targeted to an area of the building. We often survey the route of pipes from the beer cellar to the bar pumps!


8.     I have asked my employees to do some work on our property? What do I need to do? Do they need training?

The same rules apply if you utilise your own maintenance staff or external contractors. An appropriate survey is required and that employee needs to be competent to undertake the work.

There are several legal Health and Safety requirements the employer must always comply with. This includes the provision of suitable training, instruction and equipment and the correct PPE.

It is a legal requirement that any person that may disturb asbestos during the course of their work attends asbestos awareness training. They must also beable to demonstrate competency and this may involve further training including the ‘work with non-licensed asbestos materials’ course. As an employer it is important that all risks are assessed, not just asbestos, and that a written method statement and risk assessment is available onsite.

Consult HSE Asbestos Essentials for guidance on the correct steps.


9.     If I employ a contractor, how do I know they are competent.

If the work is licensed, you can check the HSE’s website for a current list of contractors and ask for evidence they are ARCA registered, this isn’t mandatory, but is a good gauge of quality and competence.

For non-licensed works, you need to see evidence of training for the operatives. Review all their documentation (RAMS, Insurance, Training) ask if they have carried out this type of work before, and find out if they have any evidence it was done successfully, for example air testing on their operatives.

10.  I have a shed with asbestos clad roofing. I noticed it got damaged in a recent storm. I don’t intend to remove the shed, but should I remove the damaged material?

Asbestos is safe to remain in situ should it be in good condition and in an area that is not easily disturbed.

However, if the material has become damaged, this material is better off being repaired or removed.

If the repair is to standard asbestos cement sheets, follow the ‘Asbestos Essentials’ guidance on the HSE website . If you are unsure of the material, it should be tested first. The legal requirements to prove competency and wear the appropriate RPE & PPE apply.


11.  How should I dispose of the asbestos materials? Will I need to pay to remove &dispose of it?

Asbestos materials must be disposed of in a suitably licensed waste disposal facility. As a business even to transport asbestos you need to have a ‘Hazardous Waste Transfer License’ which is issued from the Environment Agency. Like all commercial waste there is a cost for disposal.

It is important the correct paperwork is obtained or completed to show the correct transfer and disposal of the material. This is called a ‘Consignment Note’. It is recommended that a copy of this is filed with your management plan.


About EMS

EMS are an award-winning multidisciplinary environmental consultancy based in Herefordshire and have been providing clients with exceptional service since 2003. We are proud to have earnt a reputation for quality, safety and trust for our services.

EMS provide services across three disciplines including Asbestos, Geotech and Water to a huge variety of clients including both private and public sector. Working throughout the UK and Europe, with multiple office locations and an in-house asbestos laboratory, we offer expert advice and consultancy services in order to mitigate risk and maximise compliance with health, safety and environmental legislation for our clients.

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