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The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 introduced the new duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises. Although the new duty only become law on 21 May 2004, duty-holders had been encouraged to start complying with the new duty from the introduction of the regulations.

The aim of regulation 4 is to help protect the largest group who are today at risk of exposure to asbestos, building and maintenance workers, thereby helping to prevent thousands of asbestos-related deaths.

Regulation 4 requires those who have responsibilities for maintenance activities in non-domestic premises to assess whether there is any asbestos in their premises, and, depending on its condition, either remove it or manage it - making sure that maintenance activities carried out subsequently do not expose the workers to any avoidable risk. They must ensure that information on the location and condition of these materials is given to anyone likely to disturb it.

The Health and Safety Executive advises that it would be sensible to mark or indicate the area where ACMs have been found. This could be done with an adhesive asbestos hazard label and these are commercially available. This would make it clear to anyone that there was a hazard in that area and they needed to get advice before starting work.

However, if crocidolite and amosite asbestos fibres (usually called blue and brown respectively) are found, the asbestos containing material (ACM) must be removed.

The duty-holder in this case means every person who, either by contract or tenancy, has an obligation of any kind to maintain and/or repair non-domestic premises, in other words, workplaces. It also applies to the means of access and egress of a building or workplace.

The duty to manage requires those in control of premises to:Checklist of Employers Responsibility to Check for Asbestos

  • take reasonable steps to determine the location and condition of materials likely to contain asbestos;

  • presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not;

  • make and keep an up to date record of the location and condition of the ACMs or presumed ACMs in the premises;

  • assess the risk of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to fibres from these materials;

  • prepare a plan setting out how the risks from the materials are to be managed;

  • take the necessary steps to put the plan into action;

  • review and monitor the plan periodically; and

  • provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

The TUC has released a checklist which may be presented to employers:

1. Have you checked whether asbestos is present in your buildings?

  • a survey/inspection has been planned for ??(date);

  • a survey/inspection has been done to find materials that might have asbestos in them;

  • an expert has checked and confirmed whether or not the materials have asbestos in them; or

  • it has been assumed that unknown materials contain asbestos.

2. Have you got a record or drawing which clearly shows where in your buildings the asbestos is and what condition it is in?

  • a record or drawing showing where it is and what it looks like has been done;

  • a register has been drawn up listing all the asbestos materials and their condition; or

  • this will be done when the survey/inspection is finished.

3. How are you managing the asbestos in your buildings?

  • the badly damaged asbestos has been removed, or sealed to stop fibres being released;

  • the undamaged asbestos has been labelled/colour coded;

  • a nominated person controls maintenance work;

  • building and maintenance workers are told where the asbestos is before they start any work; or

  • the ACM is regularly checked to ensure it?s not deteriorated or been damaged.

4. How are you warning people who might work on or damage the asbestos in your buildings?

  • workers are told where the asbestos is and whether the asbestos is damaged or undamaged;

  • workers are given a plan with this information on;

  • workers are told the building may contain asbestos and they should treat the material as if it does; or

  • workers have been/will be given awareness training so that they do not disturb/damage the asbestos and know what to do if they find damaged material.

5. How are you checking that your management systems that are meant to prevent exposure to asbestos actually work and continue to do so?

  • the arrangements to control the risk are periodically reviewed as a matter of course;

  • spot checks are done to make sure the building/maintenance worker is getting the right information and working safely; or

  • any changes in the use of the building or the condition of the asbestos are dealt with.

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