Asbestos: Your Duty

Following his recent presentation to the HAMMAR Southwest group in March, Richard Bennion (Managing Director, iON Consultants) explores how best to support dutyholders with their responsibilities to manage asbestos safely.


The HSE’s current campaign, Asbestos – Your Duty is right to focus on the dangers posed by asbestos. However, with an existing system that relies heavily on the asbestos service sector to dictate service delivery, rather than on dutyholders to provide requirements, there is clearly a need for more guidance.

So what’s the problem?

According to the HSE’s latest occupational health statistics, asbestos still kills around 5,000 workers each year, and is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK - far outnumbering annual road deaths.

This significant burden to society highlights the need to ensure action is taken to protect everyone from this carcinogenic material that causes incurable diseases such as mesothelioma.

This is especially important as we start to see a ‘changing of the guard’ in our teams and contractors with the potential loss of organisational knowledge around the historic issues of working with asbestos.  We need to be confident that new apprentices and the next generation working in properties that may have hidden asbestos containing materials are still aware and informed of the dangers.

There is still a common misconception the team often encounters on site visits, that ‘all the asbestos in the UK was removed years ago’!

Asbestos 1

A call for change

An overview into the past and present parliamentary lobbying and Work and Pensions Select Committee review has led to the HSE reviewing the current requirements of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, with the view that:

“The Regulations are achieving their intended objectives, and the objectives remain valid.

Intervention by regulation is still required and remains the most effective way to control the risks of exposure to asbestos.

It is not necessary to amend the provisions of CAR 2012 at this time. Focus is on dutyholders to apply the requirements.”

Interestingly, the HSE are unwilling to commit to a national strategy for the removal of all asbestos from our buildings - or the need for a national digital register of asbestos containing materials to be publicly available, but pressure continues to mount in this area, so watch this space.

However, the HSE have agreed to look at areas such as occupational exposure limits for asbestos, improved guidance for dutyholders, accreditation for individual surveyors and simplification of types of removal work classifications. Therefore the dutyholder awareness campaign “Asbestos – Your Duty”, along with “Asbestos and You” which is biased more towards frontline trades, form part of the commitment to improvement of guidance to be a compliant organisation.

What are the key messages?

There are steps highlighted in the campaign and they are broadly encapsulated by the principles of Plan, Do, Check & Act that is captured in the HSE’s guide Managing for Health & Safety.

Asbestos 2

What does this look like and is there an asbestos risk?

Firstly, there is a need to understand if asbestos could be an issue within your property portfolio. This means you need to evaluate the ages of the buildings, as anything pre 2000 could harbour asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

In reality, there is a need to formally assess each commercial property (places of work) and common parts of domestic properties by undertaking an Asbestos Management Survey. This will assess and sample materials to help understand if there is a need to make suitable arrangements. There is a growing view that a proactive, prioritised survey of relevant domestic property is now a logical and appropriate approach.

Maintain a live asbestos register

Once completed, the survey and assessment data should be used to create a live register which provides a fundamental tool for informing anyone working in the property of any asbestos dangers present.

Therefore, it is important to ensure the data within is current, updated regularly and clearly communicated to the people that need it.  It’s also worth considering whether your asbestos register is kept up to date, readily accessible, easily understood and checked before starting work on the fabric of your properties.

When choosing a digital solution, there are some important factors to consider, such as ease of access and user-friendly interface to ensure information is readily retrievable and clearly presented. This is now a prevailing expectation, especially with hand-held technology.

It is also important that the digital system considers how new data from surveyors is quality checked, accepted and uploaded to avoid corruption and misinforming the end users about the location and condition of ACMs.

Have a plan and review it

So, we know we have ACMs present, what next? As with most property compliance, there needs to be a clear plan to ensure there are arrangements in place - such as appointing persons to be responsible for checking ACMs, updating registers, providing inductions, arranging training and testing emergency plans.

The Asbestos Management Plan (AMP) is also a mechanism to provide structure and procedures to support day to day management of ACMs and provide clarity on who does what and when.  In addition to the activities completed by appointed persons, it will cover control arrangements, such as periodic condition monitoring, permit to work systems, tasks that can be completed by non-licensed trained workers and those who hold an HSE licence, labelling of materials, training standards and emergency procedures.

The new campaign provides dutyholders with an example AMP template that has some interesting areas to note. It’s important to highlight the need for well-rounded training for appointed person roles, with wider awareness training to be bespoke and focused for relevant groups within individual organisations. This could include senior management and project teams, right the way through to those who may not be a first consideration, such as IT departments. During client review, ION typically see generalised training which reflects neither the actual compliance regime adopted, or manages to engage those being trained, so it’s no more than just another ‘tick in the box’.

The template also highlights the need for a communication plan to ensure information is shared, where it is kept and how information should be provided for updates and what to do in an emergency if an ACM is accidentally disturbed or discovered. Communication with your tenants is also increasingly important.

As with a lot of statutory compliance plans, an annual review is vital to identify any updates such as organisational changes, I.T. systems or incidents.

Set some actions and goals

Your asbestos management plan also needs to clarify the approach to prioritising action for the ACMs identified, such as:

  • High potential for release of fibres
  • A vulnerable location and high potential for disturbance
  • Items that maybe disturbed by refurbishment work
  • Areas where longer term action is needed, such as restricted areas
  • A high proportion of ‘presumption’ (rather than testing)

As with any action planning, there needs to be a resource provided (people and financial), and also realistic timescales that are monitored and held to account by the organisation.

Is the process working?

Finally, the need for assurance of asbestos arrangements is key. These can be considered as:

  • The asbestos management plan: Is it achieving its original intention and outcomes? Are there corresponding procedures / protocols in place to practically implement the AMP?
  • Asbestos inspections and surveys: Are they conducted to the required standards and if the final reports and data are checked as defined in the ‘client green boxes’ contained in HSE guidance note HSG264 “Asbestos: The Survey Guide’.
  • Removal and remedial work: Was it completed by competent persons as defined in their plan of work? Was this handed over to the dutyholder to update the live register?

As a final thought, can you be sure that your arrangements are correct, or are you allowing the tail to wag the dog?

Perhaps a sensible time to review before the HSE do…?


Additional resources

HSE Prosecution Examples - see downloads at the bottom of the page.


About iON

iON is an independent health, safety and environmental compliance consultancy with experience in conducting independent assurance reviews of asbestos activities and data for clients in the housing, education and healthcare sectors.

Their team of specialist consultants have a diverse range of experience across the industry, including UKAS accredited activities, HSE licensed removal work, CDM compliance, procurement, data assurance and much more.

The team offers a unique solution focused on day-to-day asbestos management, which is a service identified when actively undertaking ‘Appointed Persons’ roles for FTSE 100 organisations.

iON website

Richard Bennion | Managing Director | iON Consultants

Richard is an experienced director and manager in Health, Safety and Environmental compliance. He holds strong links to the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) and Faculty of Asbestos Assessment and Management (FAAM). Richard has acted as a BOHS examiner in the Certificate of Competence in Asbestos for nearly 20 years.

Contact Richard

Julian Ransom | Director | iON Consultants

Julian is a lead consultant for iON Consultants undertaking asbestos compliance audits for Social Housing and other portfolio managers / DSOs. He has regularly spoken at conferences, often with the HSE, regarding strategic asbestos management, interpreting guidance, register databases and specialist procurement. 

Contact Julian


About HAMMAR Southwest

Join us for our next Technical Briefing Day: Net Zero + Retrofit 

Date: Thursday 18 July

Venue: University of Bath

This FREE EVENT will include the opportunity to visit Bath University's innovative low carbon building materials laboratory and research centre to hear more about their latest retrofit project.

Click here for details

Richard will also be hosting a follow up session on asbestos compliance at the inaugural HAMMAR Midlands meeting in Telford on 20th June.

Watch this space for more details.


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