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Asbestos – What do you really know?

Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers in the UK each year; more than the number of people killed on the road. Additionally, around 20 tradesman die each week as a result of past exposure. However asbestos is not just a problem of the past, it can be present today in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000.

The importation, supply and use of all forms of asbestos are banned. However, many buildings, and some plant and equipment, still contain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. Asbestos can cause the following fatal and serious diseases:

  • Mesothelioma

  • Asbestosis

  • Pleural thickening

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 came into force on 6 April 2012, bringing together the three previous sets of Regulations covering the prohibition of asbestos, and has changed how we must approach working with asbestos. Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 details who has a duty to manage asbestos. The duty holder is the owner of the non-domestic premises or the person or organisation that has clear responsibility for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises, for example through an explicit agreement such as a tenancy agreement or contract. It requires the person who has the duty (ie the ‘dutyholder’) to:

  1. Find out whether the premises contains asbestos, and, if so, where it is and what condition it is in. If in doubt, materials must be presumed to contain asbestos.

  2. Assess the risk from asbestos present in the premises.

  3. Make a plan to manage that risk and act on it.

  4. Provide this information to other employers (eg building contractors) who are likely to disturb any asbestos present, so that they can put in place appropriate control while the work is being done.

The HSE provide a comprehensive set of guidance to inform you of the necessary legal steps to ensure you fully comply with the law, and therefore protect the health, safety, and welling being of your employees. If you are concerned about asbestos management in your company, please contact us here for further help and advice.

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