How should your employer manage asbestos at work?

Last updated: 05 Mar 2020

The main law governing the management of asbestos in the workplace is the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The regulations apply to all non-domestic premises; the common parts of domestic premises, such as lift shafts and out buildings; and any equipment that may contain asbestos. The regulations place a “duty to manage” asbestos on all who are responsible for the maintenance or repair of premises.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 require these duty-holders to survey their buildings and produce an asbestos register, which details where asbestos is, or might be, located. Building managers must presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not.

If the building was constructed after 2000, it is unlikely to contain asbestos. However, if it was built on land which was previously brownfield, or contains old equipment, it could still contain asbestos.

For each entry in the register, the building manager needs to score it based on the type of asbestos it is and its priority for action. This priority score depends on factors such as its location and condition.

If any asbestos-containing materials are in good condition and are not likely to be disturbed, the dutyholder may leave them in place, but must monitor and manage their condition. If they are in a poor condition, they should be sealed or enclosed. If this cannot be done safely, or would fail to sufficiently reduce the risk because they are likely to be disturbed, the dutyholder should remove the asbestos-containing materials.

Based on the findings of the survey and the register, building managers need to produce an asbestos management plan, which details things like who is responsible for managing asbestos, plans for work on asbestos materials and the schedule for monitoring the materials’ condition.

If the survey and register indicate that the asbestos needs to be removed or repaired, then the building manager will need to hire a contractor that is suitably competent to carry out work with asbestos. Higher risk repair or removal work must only be done by a contractor which holds a licence from the HSE. Any decision on whether particular work is licensable is based on the risk.

When asbestos that is in a good condition is left in place, dutyholders must ensure that everyone who needs to know about the asbestos is told about it. One of the easiest ways to doing this is to label it.

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