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Asbestos – staying on top of your responsibilities

Buying a new commercial property? Have you thought about having an asbestos survey done?

Although it has been illegal for builders to use asbestos for many years, it was once commonplace and even up until 1999, materials like asbestos cement were still widely used.

Just recently (20 January 2016), part of the Scotch Horn Leisure Centre in Nailsea was closed temporarily whilst asbestos testing was carried out. Although only a small amount was found, at levels not considered risky, it shows the importance of vigilance.

The deadly dangers of asbestos are well known and every year 5000 workers die as a result of past exposure. Asbestos becomes hazardous when it is disturbed or damaged, causing the release of toxic fibres. If inhaled, these can cause irreparable damage to the lungs as well as cancer.

The onus of responsibility, under The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, is on the owner of the commercial property or the person or organisation with clear responsibility for its maintenance or repair. This might be through a tenancy agreement or contract. They are known as the duty holder.

What commercial properties are covered by the Regulations?

  • All non-domestic premises including industrial and commercial buildings such as factories, warehouses, offices and shops as well as public buildings such as hospitals, schools, museums, libraries, leisure centres, churches and other religious buildings.
  • Although the duty does not apply to domestic premises such as private houses, it does apply to the 'common parts' of multi-occupancy domestic premises, such as purpose-built flats or houses converted into flats.

What do you need to know?

  • Is asbestos likely to be present in the commercial property? It is particularly important to check this if it was built or refurbished before 2000;
  • If there is a possibility, you must organise a full assessment of the property to identify where the asbestos is or might be;
  • If asbestos is found, all details of where it is, or might be, must be fully recorded in a written plan. It is sometimes less dangerous to make the asbestos safe than to remove it but anyone liable to disturb it inadvertently, including the emergency services, need to know its location.
  • In addition, periodic monitoring of the material containing asbestos, its condition, its maintenance and updating of written information regarding it, must all be regularly carried out.For further information see the Asbestos Homepage on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE):

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