The Dangers of Asbestos and a Sound Asbestos Management Plan

Although Asbestos has been banned from being used in the UK, there are still many buildings built or refurbished prior to 2000 which can contain it. Everyone involved with the surveying, inspection, repairing, extending, demolishing or altering of a building is at high risk of being exposed to asbestos on a regular basis. In fact, they may encounter or disturb it without realising it is even there.

With approximately 20 tradespeople losing their lives every week as a result of past exposure to asbestos, it is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Therefore, having a sound Asbestos Management Plan is not only important, but necessary.

Why is Asbestos Dangerous?

Asbestos is dangerous because when disturbed, invisible fibres are released into the air which, when inhaled, can cause mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis. Death from asbestos exposure is historical, meaning that it may not occur until years after the naturally-occurring substance has entered the lungs. However, once diagnosed with an illness related to asbestos exposure, it is often too late for treatment to have any positive effects. Therefore, avoiding exposure to and inhalation of asbestos is crucial.

How Many Types of Asbestos Are There?

There are three main types of asbestos present in twentieth-century UK buildings: Amosite, or ‘brown’ asbestos, Chrysotile, or ‘white’ asbestos, and Crocidolite, or ‘blue’ asbestos. Each of these can be found virtually anywhere in a building, from its floors to its ceilings. Asbestos may have been used as insulation for water pipes, inside walls and ceilings, and as backing for vinyl sheet flooring.

The Asbestos Management Plan

An asbestos management plan is specifically required under Regulation 4 (Duty to Manage) of the Control of Asbestos Regulations. The plan should outline how you intend to manage existing asbestos or how you plan to reduce the risks posed by asbestos.

An Asbestos Management Plan can include:

  • The individual responsible for asbestos management on a work site;
  • The asbestos management policy;
  • Asbestos survey reports;
  • The asbestos register;
  • Any plans for work on materials containing asbestos; A schedule for the type and frequency of monitoring of asbestos-containing materials (re inspections);
  • A communication plan for letting staff, maintenance, contractors and others know about your plan and its contents.

The Asbestos Register

Creating an asbestos register will allow everyone to know where in a building asbestos is located. This register is developed following an Asbestos Management Survey. This survey is a specific requirement under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 for all none domestic properties built prior to the year 2000. The asbestos register should include:

  • In or on which objects asbestos is suspected;
  • The amount of asbestos;
  • The condition of the material;
  • Where it is located;
  • The type of asbestos (brown, white or blue);
  • Its material and priority score.

Where asbestos is present, it needs to be decided how this will be managed. Once decided, this information should also be added to your register.

Communication Plan

Once you have created your Asbestos Management Plan, you must communicate it and make this available to employees, maintenance workers or appointed contractors so that they are aware of the presence of Asbestos Containing Materials on the premises and the procedures to be adopted should suspected Asbestos be identified.

Where intrusive works (i.e. works that may disturb the fabric of the building) are to be undertaken, a Refurbishment/Demolition Asbestos Survey MUST be carried out in addition to the Asbestos Management Survey.

Discovering Suspected Asbestos Containing Materials

In the discovery of a possible area of contamination or a potential Asbestos Containing Material that is not recorded on the Asbestos Register, the area should be made safe, segregated and secured and the Responsible Person informed. A competent Asbestos Consultant should then be asked to visit the property to take a sample for analysis.

Only when any decontamination works have been completed or the material has been identified as non-asbestos can the area be made available for normal use. Should the identified ACM’s not need to be removed, the Asbestos Consultant will add its details to the Asbestos Register for the property.

Posted by: Tom Price, Head of Asbestos Management Services.

For further information on the management of asbestos on your premises, please contact Tom Price by phone (01332 668877) or emails ([email protected]).