All commercial landlords have a legal duty to ensure that tenants in their properties are protected from the risks of asbestos exposure.
The obligations include taking reasonable steps to ascertain whether or not there are any asbestos-containing materials within a building, which usually involves having an asbestos survey carried out.
If asbestos is discovered, there is no statutory requirement to arrange for its removal. Managing the risk by keeping any asbestos-containing materials sealed off and in good repair is deemed sufficient.
A landlord’s legal responsibilities for on-going asbestos risk management are passed on to any personnel or agents they hire to manage the premises.
Full guidance for managing and working with asbestos in commercial premises is contained in the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) relating to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The main points of the ACOP setting out what landlords need to do to protect tenants from asbestos are as follows:
Locate and identify asbestos
Any suspicion that there is asbestos in the premises, arising for example from the age of the building or knowledge of construction techniques used, should trigger an asbestos survey carried out by qualified specialists. The rule of thumb is better safe than sorry – if it is later discovered that there is asbestos present, and it is reasonably believed its presence could have been anticipated, the duty holders could be in line for fines of up to £20,000 or even imprisonment.
An asbestos survey will use chemical analysis of building materials to identify the location and amount of asbestos present. If there is doubt over whether a material contains asbestos or not, the guidance indicates that it should be treated as if it does.
Maintain an up-to-date asbestos record
The results of an asbestos survey will indicate where asbestos is located in a building. The main purpose of a record is to track the condition of asbestos-containing materials and surrounding structures so that adequate repairs can be carried out to control the risks of fibres getting into the atmosphere.
Draw up an asbestos risk assessment and plan
Alongside a working location and condition record, the control of asbestos ACOP requires two other documents be drawn up and maintained – a risk assessment detailing the chances of anyone working in the premises coming into contact with asbestos fibres, and a plan outlining how this risk will be managed.
These documents should refer to the asbestos record, and be updated regularly to remain relevant. For example, a deterioration in the condition of asbestos-containing materials will increase the risk of fibres getting into the atmosphere, so the risk assessment and action plan should detail what will happen if this is the case. Equally, structural work to enclose asbestos completely will reduce risks, triggering the need for a new assessment and plan.
Inform tenants and workers
All tenants operating in a building, as well as FM personnel and external contractors, must be informed about the presence of asbestos if there is an identified risk of them coming into contact with it. The duty holders under the terms of the regulations, i.e. landlords and their FM representatives, are also responsible for liaisingwith tenants in order to carry out work to reduce and manage risks, for example arranging alternative accommodation so building works can be carried out.
If you suspect you building contains asbestos, it is essential that you don’t delay taking action. Red Rock FM is certified to carry out asbestos surveys on all commercial premises. Contact us today for a free, no obligation quotation.