The Asbestos Survey in the work place
The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 requires an employer to provide a safe workplace. Asbestos, a category 1 chemical carcinogen, is subject to a specific set of regulations: the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2006. These regulations cover work with asbestos, prohibitions on the importation, supply and use of asbestos, and licensing of asbestos removal activities.
In addition, there is a specific duty under CAR 2006 (introduced initially under the previous regulations ie the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (2002) and implemented in April 2004*) to manage the risks from asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in non-domestic premises.
The main purpose of this legal duty is to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable that no one can come to any harm from asbestos on the premises. In particular, it is to prevent the inadvertent exposure to asbestos containing materials (ACMs) by workers who can disturb the fabric of the building during maintenance, refurbishment/repair, installation and related activities.
These workers currently represent the most significant group dying from mesothelioma and other asbestos related diseases (~1000 deaths in 2006). It is estimated that some 20,000 joiners and carpenters will have died from mesothelioma by 2050.
The location of ACMs must also be known so that disturbance can be avoided and for proper controls to be implemented when work is carried out. The duty also seeks to protect those people who occupy and use premises which contain ACMs. The ACMs must be located both inside and outside the premises in order for their condition to be assessed and for any remedial action or removal to take place.
The asbestos survey is the starting point and a key component in the risk assessment process which underpins the development of the asbestos management plan.
Managing Asbestos your legal duty
Regulation 4 of CAR (2006) creates an explicit duty to assess and manage the risks from asbestos in non-domestic premises. The risks will vary with circumstances ranging from normal occupation of a building to the repair, refurbishment and demolition of the premises, and they will each need to be assessed.
This assessment will be used to produce a asbestos management plan, which details and records the actions to be undertaken to manage and reduce the risks from asbestos.
The requirements are placed on “duty holders” who should:
• Take reasonable steps to determine the location of materials likely to contain asbestos;
• Presume materials to contain asbestos, unless there are good reasons not to do so;
• Make and maintain a written record of the location of the asbestos and presumed asbestos materials;
• Monitor the condition of asbestos and presumed asbestos materials;
• Assess the risk of exposure from the asbestos and presumed asbestos materials and document the actions necessary to manage the risk; and
• Take steps to see that the actions above are carried out
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