The Control of Asbestos Regulations provide a framework for the management of asbestos/asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in existing non-domestic premises and during any work activity involving asbestos. Dutyholders must make sure anyone who carries out any work in non-domestic premises and any occupants of the premises are not exposed to asbestos from ACMs that may be present.
Privately owned and occupied domestic premises (e.g. houses) are specifically excluded from these regulations, however common parts of multiple occupancy domestic premises (often referred to as HMOs), such as purpose-built flats or houses converted into flats are covered. Common parts of such domestic premises might include foyers, corridors, lifts and lift shafts, staircases, roof spaces, gardens, yards, outhouses and garages, but not the private domestic area inside each flat.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations impose duties on employers, employees and those in control of premises to manage risks posed by asbestos.
Employers must prevent, so far as is reasonably practicable, the exposure of any employee to asbestos and employees must make full and proper use of control measures provided to them (e.g. respiratory protective equipment (RPE)), follow instructions and training provided and report, without delay, any defects to equipment or to the accommodation that houses it.
A licence granted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is required before undertaking certain types of work involving asbestos and, except for where the work doesn’t require it, the employer must notify the enforcing authority (as per Schedule 1):
Areas where asbestos work is to be carried out must be designated and appropriately marked (by the installation of signs and notices):
Before carrying out any work that has the potential to disturb asbestos, employers are required to find out if it’s present and, if so, the type and condition.
This initial assessment should take in consideration of the building plans and other available relevant information, including reports from past inspections. If no records are available, or there are doubts about their accuracy/relevance, employers may need to arrange a survey and analysis of representative samples. Measurement of asbestos fibres in air must be carried out by a competent working in compliance with ISO 17025.
A record of the locations where the assessment indicates ACMs are present, or presumed to be present, is to be created, with this including an accurate drawing of the premises, details of the locations of the ACMs, their extent and condition and forms (e.g. the product type – tiles, boards, cement sheets) and what the ACM looks like (e.g. if painted and what colour).
The record and drawings should also include details of any area not accessed or inspected and which must be assumed to contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not.
The record can be held in written or electronic form and should be dated to aid periodic reviews.
All the information gathered from the assessment should be used to form the management plan.
Alternatively, employers should assume that the part of the building to be disturbed contains the most hazardous types of asbestos and apply the appropriate control measures required by the Regulations, using a licensed contractor if required.
For construction projects within scope of the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations, clients have to provide pre-construction information to designers and contractors, including information on the presence of asbestos and its type and condition.
As with any risk assessment, it must be reviewed on a regular basis and whenever there is a reason to believe it’s no longer valid.
If the initial assessment revealed that asbestos may be, or is, present, an assessment of the risks to people must be carried out and used to create a written plan identifying affected areas and the measures taken to manage the risk. Suitable and sufficient plans of work are a licence condition and a legal requirement for any licensable work with asbestos that requires a licence and a legal requirement.
The plan should be kept at the premises where the work is taking place at all times and the information within it needs to be easy to understand so that anyone likely to disturb the asbestos (such as a roofing contractor) and emergency services can see exactly where the asbestos is and its condition.
In cases of demolition or major refurbishment of premises, the plan of work must, so far as is reasonably practicable, specify that asbestos must be removed before any other major works unless removal would cause greater risk than leaving it in place.
The plan of work must include:
“(a) the nature and probable duration of the work;
(b) the location of the place where the work is to be carried out;
(c) the methods to be applied where the work involves the handling of asbestos or materials containing asbestos;
(d) the characteristics of the equipment to be used for—
(i) protection and decontamination of those carrying out the work, and
(ii) protection of other persons on or near the worksite;
(e) the measures which the employer intends to take in order to comply with the requirements of regulation 11; and
(f) the measures which the employer intends to take in order to comply with the requirements of regulation 17.”
The employer must ensure that the work is carried out in accordance with the plan and any amendments that get made to it.
High priority will need to be given to damaged material and materials likely to be disturbed. These will need to be repaired, sealed, enclosed or removed using trained and competent contractors.
If ACMs, or presumed ACMs, that are in good condition are left in place:
If damaged ACM can be safely repaired (sealed or encapsulated, for example), the dutyholder should ensure the area is marked after it has been repaired and make sure it is on the record of asbestos locations. If it cannot be easily repaired and protected, the dutyholder should have it removed, with this work carried out by someone trained and competent to carry out licensable work, notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW), or non-licensable work, as appropriate.
The management plan, including records and drawings, should be reviewed:
In addition, any identified or suspected ACM must be inspected and its condition assessed periodically, to check that it has not deteriorated or been damaged. The frequency will depend on the location of the ACMs and other factors which could affect their condition.
Whenever an employee might be exposed to asbestos by work they are carrying out or supervising, they must be given adequate information, instruction and training so that they can work safely and effectively.
The information, instruction and training should be given regularly and adapted to reflect the situation, including any changes to the risk. The three main levels of training situations, which are:
What should be covered in the various levels of training, and other arrangements, such as for refresher training, are detailed in regulation 10 and the relevant Approved Code of Practice (L143) provided by the HSE.
It’s vital that employers prevent employees being exposed to asbestos or, if this isn’t possible, put measures and controls (that aren’t the use of respiratory protective equipment (RPE)) in place to reduce exposure to the lowest level reasonably practicable – RPE should be the last resort.
If the control limit (defined in regulation 2(1) (Interpretation)) is exceeded, the employees potentially affected must be informed and work in the affected area stopped until measures have been introduced to reduce employee exposure below the control limit.
Procedures must be put in place to ensure that employees are applying control measures. This might include regular checks and supervision during the works, in addition to evidence of appropriate corrective action being taken when a problem is identified.
All equipment (other than disposable RPE) provided to control exposure to asbestos, such as local exhaust ventilation (LEV), needs to be thoroughly examined and tested and records kept of these activities, and any repairs or maintenance, for at least 5 years.
Where there is a risk that an employee might be exposed to asbestos, for instance because it’s airborne, the employer must provide suitable protective clothing and washing and changing facilities and ensure that the clothing is appropriately cleaned or disposed of at suitable intervals.
If there is suitable equipment, cleaning should be done at the premises where the exposure took place; otherwise it must be packed in a clearly labelled suitable container as if it were an asbestos-containing material or waste before being taken to an appropriately equipped laundry facility.
Employers must arrange appropriate medical examinations (health surveillance) for any employees who carry out licensable work or notifiable non-licensable work (NNLW). Associated health records must then be held for 40 years from the last entry for each individual.
Anyone who carries out licensable work must have been medically examined in the past two years by a doctor appointed by the HSE for that purpose. Individuals carrying out NNLW must have medical examinations repeated every three years (or a shorter time if advised by a doctor), but only while the employee continues to do or expects to continue to do NNLW. For NNLW, the examination doesn’t have to be carried out by a HSE appointed doctor – a local GP would be fine.