5 things about asbestos risks in commercial property
Asbestos is a material that was widely used in the construction industry for many years due to its heat, fire and sound protection qualities. It has been illegal to use asbestos in the construction or refurbishment of buildings since 1999.
Asbestos is now recognised as a significant health hazard if disturbed and so building owners and occupiers must be aware of, and comply with, legislation that regulates its use, removal and management. Every person with an obligation to maintain or repair a property constructed before 1999 must take particular note of the asbestos regulations, and comply with them.
The following are 5 things to be aware of:
1. The relevant current regulations are the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (“the Regulations”) which came into effect on 6 April 2012 and an approved code of practice has been issued by the Health and Safety Executive ('HSE'). In common with other health and safety regulations, breach of the Regulations constitutes a criminal offence, punishable by an unlimited fine and/or up to two years imprisonment. Affected persons may also bring negligence claims against the duty holder.
2. There is an obligation on the duty holder to (i) determine whether asbestos is present or is likely to be present in a building and (ii) manage any asbestos which is or is likely to be present. The definition of a duty holder is broad. It will apply to owners of “non-domestic premises” and to any tenants and sub-tenants thereof. These obligations can also extend to managing agents if they have taken over the repair or maintenance of a property. The obligations apply to vacant premises.
3. The legislation does not define “non-domestic”, however the HSE has advised that a broad approach will be taken. It includes commercial premises, offices, retail premises, industrial premises, hospitals, schools, universities, prisons and places of worship.
4. A duty holder must carry out a 'suitable and sufficient' assessment to determine whether asbestos or asbestos containing material is likely to be present in the premises. To do this, the duty holder must take account of building plans, other relevant information and the age of the premises. An inspection must be made of those parts of the premises which are reasonably accessible. In all cases, the approach taken should be proportionate to the perceived risk and a full survey may not be required unless work is planned which could disturb the asbestos. The duty holder must review the survey and record its findings in order to assess the risk.
5. If the survey shows that asbestos is or is liable to be present, the duty holder must determine the risk from that asbestos, prepare a written plan to identify the parts of the premises affected and specify the measures taken to manage the risk. The measures must include monitoring the condition of the asbestos and maintaining or removing any materials thought to contain asbestos. The information about the location and condition of the asbestos must be provided to every person liable to disturb it and to the emergency services.