These two new best practice sections will help social landlords to maintain quality homes in an increasingly challenging economic environment. The Compliance Section has a set of topical guides summarising social landlords’ responsibilities for meeting essential statutory health and safety requirements and explain how to do this economically and efficiently. The Fuel Saving Section explains how to include a fuel saving strategy as a key aspect of an organisation’s business plan. The Guide then sets out how to develop a practical improvement strategy as an integral part of the asset management programme and how to successfully deliver the improvements and manage the risks. There are also best practice training courses which relate to this guide.
This guide covers social landlords’ responsibilities for managing any asbestos, including asbestos containing material (ACM ), in their properties to protect anyone using or working in their premises from the risks to health that exposure to asbestos causes.
Landlords must ensure that the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR) is complied with in the case of domestic premises, and more specifically the common parts associated with them. Any operative must also comply with these Regulations. These regulations require that a risk assessment is carried out before any work is started to see if asbestos is present and to ensure that appropriate precautions are taken to deal with any asbestos that is identified. Landlords have a duty to manage asbestos under regulation 4 of CAR that applies only to non-domestic premises, including common areas of flats and other domestic premises. This duty does not apply to the individual flats themselves or to family houses but these are covered by specific housing legislation relating to safety in homes (see below). HSE has provided a fuller explanation of where this duty applies in domestic premises and when licensed contractors should be used.
Landlords also have to comply with CDM Regulations when commissioning or undertaking repair or construction work. As it may pose a potential risk, these Regulations include an obligation on the landlord, where it is aware asbestos is present, to notify those responsible for commissioning or undertaking repair or construction work (including response repair teams) of its presence.
In England and Wales the Housing Act 2004 applies to individual homes, including the licensing of houses in multiple-occupation (HMO) and other residential accommodation. Asbestos is one of the hazards assessed under the Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS).
The relevant legislation in Scotland is the Housing (Scotland) Act 2014. In Northern Ireland the Department for Social Development regulates registered housing associations under the Regulatory Framework for Registered Housing Associations in Northern Ireland 2006.
HSE are responsible for enforcing asbestos management and removal in England, Wales and Scotland. In Northern Ireland the enforcing authority is HSE Northern Ireland (hseni).
The HHSRS under the Housing Act is enforced by local authorities. For category 1 hazards an improvement notice will be served or, in more extreme cases, a prohibition order may be served. The Act gives local authorities powers of access for the purposes of inspecting to see if a category 1 or 2 hazard exists.
In England, the Regulator of Social Housing (RSH), requires registered providers to comply with its Regulatory Standards. On 1 October 2018 the RSH became a standalone public body, independent from the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA). On 11 January 2018, the HCA’s non-regulation arm adopted its new trading name Homes England. Managing asbestos is covered by the Home Standard that requires meeting all statutory requirements for the health and safety of occupants.
In Wales all social landlords are required to meet and maintain the Welsh Housing Quality Standard (WHQS) as soon as possible, but in any event no later than 2020.
In Scotland, social landlords are required to meet the minimum Scottish Housing Quality Standard (SHQS) . Meeting the SQHS includes compliance with Technical Guide for healthy, safe and secure homes including asbestos. The Scottish Housing Regulator expects compliance with all statutory and regulatory obligations including managing asbestos.
In Northern Ireland the Department for Social Development regulates registered housing associations under the Regulatory Framework for Registered Housing Associations in Northern Ireland 2006. Regulatory Standard 3.3 states that housing associations must develop, manage and maintain good-quality homes that seek to meet people’s needs and preferences now and in the future. This includes meeting the Decent Homes Standard and compliance with all statutory and regulatory obligations including managing asbestos.
HSE has produced guidance on managing and working with asbestos that explains what needs to be done before any work is carried out on a building which may have asbestos (i.e. built or refurbished before 2000). This includes identifying if asbestos is present (including type and condition), whether a survey should be undertaken and assessing whether work can be carried out to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos (a risk assessment). Under CAR some non-licensed work has to be notified and brief written records kept. In addition all workers carrying out non-licensed work must be under health surveillance by a Doctor.
The duty to manage asbestos explains what is required of landlords (as the duty holder), such as taking reasonable steps to identify asbestos, keeping up-to-date records of location and condition of asbestos containing materials and assessing and managing risks. Detailed and updated guidance is provided in the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L143 Managing and working with asbestos (note ACOP 127 has been withdrawn), which also sets out who is the dutyholder under differing tenancy arrangements. HSE’s ‘A comprehensive guide to Managing Asbestos in premises’ is also useful.
To help people commissioning and carrying out asbestos surveys, as well as those with specific responsibilities for managing the risks from asbestos in non-domestic premises under regulation 4 of CAR 2012, HSE has published "HSG264 Asbestos: The survey guide". The guide covers competence and quality assurance, which may be relevant to how the dutyholder selects an appropriate survey company, as well as how to plan and carry out a survey. It explains what the survey report should cover and how the dutyholder should use the survey information to then actively manage any asbestos materials identified, particularly in communal areas. HSG264 explains that a management survey can be planned for a representative sample of homes (archetypal group) based on a desk-top study, especially before any Planned Improvement programme commences. However, there is no set proportion of inspection which is satisfactory. Surveys must be undertaken "until the results demonstrate as far as reasonably practicable that there is consistency in the range of ACMs" in the specific property type being considered. The results of these inspections must also be provided to your contractor. Where works are likely to be intrusive or where there is a risk of disturbing the existing structure and exposing hidden asbestos that would not be detected with a management survey, a Refurbishment and Demolition survey should be considered.
Where landlords have found asbestos in communal and work areas, some have written to residents notifying them of its presence and have also sent a general letter regarding asbestos to all residents living in individual homes. While there is no legal mandate to do so, increasingly landlords are choosing to inform their residents both generally (through leaflets, web site information, newsletter articles, etc) and specifically (post survey, regarding their individual home) about where there is/ may be asbestos within their home, the potential risks and the associated "do’s and don’ts".
HSE also produce guidance for licensed contractors and analysts.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) is supporting the set up of a working group to develop specific guidance for the Social Housing sector that considers both the Duty to Manage and Duty of Care. HSE want to help the group explore any barriers to compliance and develop an understanding of compliance for all social landlords (small and large) so that they can review their Duty To Manage processes and how effective they are. HSE will explore with the group how their processes may be improved and be more consistent.
HSE has confirmed that they do not want the group to duplicate its existing guidance or to gold-plate the regulations. Instead HSE wants to help the group develop specific, practical and accessible guidance that will help social landlords manage asbestos effectively in a way that will keep residents and contractors safe. The group expect to develop checklists and other tools for audit purposes to help the sector test and audit their management systems.
The NHMF attended the initial meeting and will be actively involved in helping the group develop the sector guidance.