It is now over three years since the introduction of Regulation 4 and the “Duty to Manage” regulations with the main thrust of this new legislation being – as the name implies – to ensure asbestos in non-domestic premises is adequately managed. Unfortunately, three years later it still cannot be said that all asbestos management in the UK has reached acceptable standards in many organisations.
Further to additional consultation, the HSE introduced, last November, more changes to the renamed Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2006.
These amendments are far less reaching in terms of cost and implementation than the changes made in 2004 when the Duty to Manage (Regulation 4) was introduced. That said, these changes are most definitely worthy of note, especially as one element means a loosening of regulatory control regarding textured coatings. Under the changes, textured coatings no longer have to be removed by a licensed asbestos removal contractor, which historically has been the case with only a very few exceptions for minor works. Now implemented, duty holders will have to exercise caution, because textured coatings do still technically come under the CAR in that textured coatings should be removed only by experienced, trained personnel with appropriate method statements, PPE, safe system of removal and, importantly, insurance for working with asbestos, which is rarely the case for non-licensed contractors.
Within this latest round of changes there are other changes to control limits (single limit of 0.1f/cm3) and asbestos fibre counting rules, which realistically will have little impact on the day to day management of asbestos from a client’s perspective.
One item, however, that will require more attention, is the introduction of a clear asbestos training mandate for all staff that have the potential to disturb asbestos through the course of their work – this includes but is not limited to: electricians, plumbers and maintenance workers. This mandate also extends to those responsible for instructing people to work on the fabric of buildings. While management can benefit from the legal aspects of compliance, maintenance and operative staff need to know where asbestos is likely to be found and consequently how not to disturb it. A little knowledge goes a long way and will doubtless be the cause of fewer incidents of asbestos being disturbed. This, in turn, means that people are better protected, costs for remediation are avoided and liability to the employer is reduced.
Once again, caution should be exercised before employing the services of a trainer as adequate training will only be delivered by someone who can prove not only that their knowledge is up to date, but also whose track records and credentials can be verified.
In light of all of this it would be prudent for FM managers and providers to examine existing and potential new contracts in detail to ascertain their contractual responsibilities under the asbestos regulations. Regulation 4 explicitly places duty holder responsibilities on all parties that can instruct and carry out works on the fabric of a building. If the FM provider is in control of maintenance activities and has the authority to instruct works then often the FM provider is taking on a primary duty holder role for adherence to Regulation 4.
Whether your property has required a survey or not, if asbestos either is or could be present, then at the very least you must have an active Asbestos Management Plan in place. Such a plan must at all times be accurate and the contents readily available to anyone who may encounter asbestos while carrying out their duties. While, for some, this may well sound obvious, it is not uncommon for records to have remained out of date and fragmented in spite of a survey having been recently carried out. Clearly, if asbestos records are inaccurate, then satisfactory asbestos management is impossible.
In the same way that regular inspection of fire extinguishers and PAT testing are without question part of any organisation’s administrative fabric, so too should be asbestos re-inspections when risk assessments that were undertaken in the original survey are reappraised and any changes recorded. If, at any time, any of the asbestos has been damaged or the purpose of the building has changed, the overall risk rating of the asbestos also changes and this must be recorded.
A good way of ensuring all these actions are taken care of is to partner a competent consultant through an extended asbestos management agreement to ensure the risks of asbestos are adequately controlled and managed whilst taking into account budgetary and operational constraints.