Managing asbestos

Managing asbestos in buildings

If you are responsible for managing the maintenance and repair of a building, you must manage any asbestos in it. As well as protecting people from exposure to asbestos fibres, you have a legal duty to manage asbestos (under regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos 2012).

You are a "duty holder" if:

  • you own the building;
  •  you are responsible through a contract or tenancy agreement;
  • there is no formal contract or agreement but you have control of the building;
  • in a multi-occupied building, you are the owner and have taken responsibility for maintenance and repairs for the whole building.

If you are unsure whether you are a duty holder seek professional advice.

If you are not the duty holder, but have information about the building, you must cooperate with the duty holder, e.g. landlords must pass on relevant information to new tenants, and leaseholders must allow access for inspection by managing agents.

Asbestos surveys and registers

Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are either known to contain asbestos, or presumed to contain asbestos.

The purpose of surveying is to make a 'materials assessment', i.e.

  1. To find ACM and record what it is, where it is and how much there is
  2. To record how accessible it is, its condition, and any surface treatment
  3. To record the asbestos type, by sampling or by presuming

The duty-holder, building owner, employer and surveyor need to be clear on the type of survey needed, where the survey is needed, and what records should result.

There are two types of survey for ACM:
Management survey - the purpose of this survey is to manage ACM during the normal occupation and use of premises. The aim is to produce an 'asbestos register' outlining where ACM are located or where there might be. An asbestos register will usually form part of an asbestos management survey.

A Management Survey aims to ensure that:

  1. nobody is harmed by the continuing presence of ACM in the premises or equipment;
  2. that the ACM remain in good condition; and
  3. that nobody disturbs it accidentally

The Survey must locate ACM that could be damaged or disturbed by normal activities, by foreseeable maintenance, or by installing new equipment. It involves minor intrusion and minor asbestos disturbance to make a Materials Assessment. This shows the ability of ACM, if disturbed, to release fibres into the air. It guides the client, e.g. in prioritising any remedial work.
Refurbishment / demolition survey – this type of survey is required where the premises, or part of it, need upgrading, refurbishment or demolition. The Survey does not need a record of the ACM condition.

A Refurbishment / demolition Survey aims to ensure that:

  1. nobody will be harmed by work on ACM in the premises or equipment;
  2. such work will be done by the right contractor in the right way

The Survey must locate and identify all ACM before any structural work begins at a stated location or on stated equipment at the premises. It involves destructive inspection and asbestos disturbance. The area surveyed must be vacated and certified 'fit for reoccupation' after the survey.

Work with asbestos

If you need to have work done on or near asbestos, first decide if the work needs to be carried out by a licensed contractor. Most asbestos removal work will require a contractor holding a licence from HSE. All work with sprayed asbestos coatings and asbestos lagging and most work with asbestos insulation and asbestos insulating board (AIB) require a licence;

If the work is not licensable, decide if the work needs to be notified

If it doesn't need a licence, you can do maintenance work on or around ACMs with the appropriate controls in place;

Some non-licensed work also has additional requirements, i.e. notification of work, medical surveillance and record keeping. This work is known as notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW).

  • All work with asbestos must be done by trained people using proper precautions;
  • You need a trained contractor or staff even for work on materials such as asbestos cement, textured coatings or vinyl tiles.
  • Adequate insurance with asbestos cover should be in place