The Dangers of Asbestos and Elements of a Sound Asbestos Management Plan

Although asbestos has been banned from use in the UK, there are still many buildings built or refurbished prior to 2000, which will still contain asbestos. 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 can be 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 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

The Construction (Design and Management Regulations) 2015 (CDM 2015), which came into force on 6 April 2015 replaces CDM 2007. The publication provides guidance on the legal requirements to ensure that all projects are carried out in a safe and healthy manner for all involved.

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 Company Asbestos Management Policy & Procedures, including roles and responsibilities.
  • Copies of current Survey Reports.
  • A ‘Live’ Asbestos Register.
  • Re-inspection records complete with recommendations/actions for the on-going management of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM’s).
  • Record of Acknowledgement for all persons likely to come into contact with ACM’s.

The Asbestos Register or Asbestos Survey Report

The Register or Report will allow all persons likely to come into contact with ACM’s to know where in the building any asbestos is located. The Asbestos Register or Asbestos Survey Report should include:

  • In or on which materials asbestos is suspected;
  • The amount of asbestos in each location;
  • Whether or not there is any surface coating;
  • The condition of the material;
  • How easy it is to access;
  • It’s presumed type (brown, white or blue);
  • Its material and priority score.

Priority Scores

Priority scores determine which occurrences of asbestos should be addressed first. The main headings of a priority score sheet should include:

  • Normal occupant activity;
  • The likelihood of disturbance;
  • Potential for human exposure;
  • Maintenance activity.

Under each main heading, a series of scenarios should be listed with their corresponding scores. For example, information under the “Normal occupant activity” heading may look as follows:

Normal Occupant Activity

Rare disturbance activity (such as a Little-used store room) = 0

Low disturbance activities (such as regular office activity) = 1

Periodic disturbances (such as vehicular activity) = 2

High levels of disturbance (such as a constantly used fire door containing asbestos insulation sheet) = 3

Obtaining Accurate Priority Scores

The basic guidelines for obtaining accurate priority scores are to look at the asbestos material to determine its condition. For material that is in good condition a priority score of 1 for both material and priority is suggested. Asbestos material not in good condition can be accurately scored by accessing the HSE’s material and priority scoring tool.

Higher scored items are those that should be worked on first. Items with the same priority score can be assessed by consulting their material score. The one with the higher material score should take priority.

Work Plans

All work on Asbestos Containing Materials should be carefully planned and only undertaken by competent persons or a Licenced Asbestos Removal Contractor.

Communication Plan

Once you have created your Asbestos Management Plan, you must communicate it to your employees. Tell them where asbestos has been found and how you plan to deal with it. Another important task to complete is to attach a label to anything in the building that contains or may contain asbestos.

Finally, you must also warn all persons undertaking any construction or maintenance related works where the asbestos containing materials are located within the building.

If during any construction related works; a potentially asbestos containing material is discovered, works must cease immediately and the property manager or supervisor be contacted. The area should be secured and segregated until the suspicious material can be accurately identified. Only when the material has been removed or identified as non-asbestos should works be allowed to continue.