Every week approximately 8 joiners, 6 electricians and 4 plumbers die from asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK (HSE).
Asbestos, the “hidden killer”, can be found in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000.
The duty to manage is directed at those who manage non-domestic premises: the people with responsibility for protecting others who work in such premises, or use them in other ways, from the risks to ill health that exposure to asbestos causes. Non-domestic premises include all industrial, commercial or public buildings such as factories, warehouses, offices, shops, hospitals and schools.
Duty holders must comply by following three essential steps:
- find out whether the premises contain asbestos, and, if so, where it is and what condition it is in. If in doubt, materials must be presumed to contain asbestos;
- assess the risk; and
- make a plan to manage that risk and act on it.
The HSE have identified the following basic principles to remember:
- asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed. If it is safely managed and contained, it doesn’t present a health hazard;
- don’t remove asbestos unnecessarily – removing it can be more dangerous than leaving it in place and managing it;
- not all asbestos materials present the same risk. The measures that need to be taken for controlling the risks from materials such as pipe insulation are different from those needed in relation to asbestos cement;
- don’t assume you need to bring in a specialist in every case (for example, you can inspect your own building rather than employ a surveyor). But, if you do, make sure they are competent
- if you are unsure about whether certain materials contain asbestos, you can presume they do and treat them as such;
- remember that the duty to manage is all about putting in place the practical steps necessary to protect maintenance workers and others from the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres. It is not about removing all asbestos.
If any materials containing asbestos need to be sealed, encapsulated or removed, remember you will need to employ a licensed contractor if the materials are high risk (e.g. pipe insulation and asbestos insulating panels). If the materials are lower risk (e.g. asbestos cement) then an unlicensed but competent contractor may carry out this work. For further details look at the HSE website licensing section.
For further information and details of the Asbestos Training Pledge see http://www.hse.gov.uk/