Asbestos – Frequently Asked Questions

Asbestos Management

The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2006 Regulation 4 Duty to Manage is the obligation for the “Dutyholder” (Defined as the person(s) responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the premises) to manage any asbestos within a premises. The dutyholder has to take steps to ascertain whether asbestos materials are present within the premises by commissioning an asbestos management survey and introducing the appropriate asbestos management controls.

Asbestos Management Plans

If you own, occupy, manage or have responsibilities for non-domestic premises which may contain asbestos, or if you are responsible for the non-private, ie common parts of domestic premises (hall and lift areas in apartment blocks), you will either have:

  • A legal duty to manage the risk from the material, or
  • A duty to co-operate with whoever manages that risk

The asbestos management plan is formulated from the findings of an asbestos management survey. The document should provide comprehensive asbestos management procedures and detail the following:

  • Asbestos policy/statement of intent
  • Health risks
  • Responsibilities and designated persons
  • Asbestos management process
  • Control arrangements
  • Emergency protocols
  • Work on asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and contractors
  • Methods statements and risk assessments
  • Record keeping and use of asbestos survey report
  • Monitoring strategy
  • Provision of information, instruction and training (Asbestos awareness training)
  • Medical supervision
  • Permits-to-work

The asbestos management plan will detail who is the dutyholder, and who will undertake the roles and responsibilities of asbestos responsible person (RP) and deputy RP. A plan of action can be devised from this information to repair/remove asbestos (if necessary) and to manage and minimise risk.

Asbestos – What is it?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral which grows in veins within mesomorphic rock. There are six asbestos types, split into two categories. The commercially used types of asbestos are Chrysotile (white), Amosite (brown) and Crocidolite (blue). Often asbestos fibres are referred to by colour, although this is not visually identifiable. Asbestos was used for its versatility; mechanical properties and chemical, heat and electrical resistance. Asbestos is highly chemically inert; therefore it was frequently used for the externals of buildings such as roof tiles, roof ridges, rainwater products and external panels. The chemical inertness of asbestos makes it frequently found within production plants which use acids.

Asbestosis

Asbestos is a condition which is typified by a shortness of breath. Known in Ancient Greece as a “sickness of the lungs”, it is caused by fibres reaching the alveoli. The subsequent scarring results in reduced lung capacity and an increase in the likelihood of lung cancer. Although not always fatal, the condition can be extremely debilitating.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is an aggressive form of lung cancer caused solely from exposure to asbestos fibres. Cancerous cells form in the membrane covering internal organs, causing the lung cancer to quickly spread across the body. This cancerous growth inhibits normal lung tissue function. Symptoms include a shortness of breath, coughing and chest pains. This condition is fatal and the period from diagnosis to death is typically 6 – 24 months.

Other diseases from asbestos exposure are lung cancer, pleural plaques, cancer of the larynx, penile and ovarian cancers, asbestos warts and pleural thickening.

Uses of asbestos

Asbestos was used both as an additive and as a primary material in a number of building applications. Typical material uses were:

  • Asbestos insulation board for ceiling tiles, partitions, soffits, transoms etc. They can be up to 85% asbestos and semi compressed which enables easy fibre release. Only to removed/worked on by a licensed asbestos removal contractor.
  • Asbestos cements, used as roof sheets, flue pipes, guttering, roof tiles etc. Usually 10-15% white asbestos, although if pre-1955 likely to be blue asbestos. Non-licensed materials can be removed by non-licensed contractors.
    Lagging on pipes and calorifiers. Typically around 15% asbestos and only to removed/worked on by licensed asbestos contractors.
  • Asbestos reinforced composites used as floor tiles, stair nosings, sink pads, toilets seats and cisterns. The bitumen adhesives on floor finishes can contain asbestos. These are typically low risk materials.
  • Asbestos rope and cloth. Fire blankets, gaskets, cable insulation and flash guards can contain asbestos woven textiles. Fibre release depends on the material type. Typically woven Chrysotile (white) asbestos fibres.
  • Sprayed coatings, up to 85% asbestos mixed with an adhesive and sprayed on to structural steel columns, beams and purlins. Sprayed coatings are a licensed material, and have a high fibre release if disturbed.

Asbestos Regulations

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 was introduced to incorporate the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations, the Asbestos (Prohibition) Regulations 1985 and the Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983 under one roof. The regulations place a duty on any non-domestic premises dutyholder to identify and manage any Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) within the building.

History:

The general use of Crocidolite (blue) asbestos was voluntarily banned in 1970. The first prohibition enforceable by law was the Asbestos (Prohibition) Regulations 1985 which banned the import and use of Crocidolite (blue) and Amosite (brown) asbestos. The regulations were amended in 1999 to ban the use and import of Chrysotile (white) asbestos, in order to comply with Directive 1999/77/EU. Any building built before 2000 is subject to the regulations.

Key dutyholder CAR 2006 regulations:

The key regulations to dutyholders for Control of Asbestos Regulation 2006 compliance are:

Regulation 4: Duty to Manage

There is a duty to manage the asbestos within any non-domestic premises for whoever has control of the building. The dutyholder has to take reasonable steps to find out if there are Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) within the premises, and if so where they are, how much, and what condition they are in. An asbestos management survey will present the finding of an inspection to gain these details and recommend solutions based on risk score. Unless there is full documentation as to what was used in the construction of the premises an asbestos management survey will be required. Before works are carried out, the information on ACMs must be ascertained and provided to anyone who may be required to work on, or disturb and of these materials present.

Regulation 5: Identifying the presence of asbestos

This regulation requires that no employer carried out demolition, maintenance or any other work which exposes or may expose, their employees to asbestos in any premises unless they have found out first: if ACMs maybe or are present; if so, what type of asbestos is present and in what materials and in what condition these are in. If there is any doubt about the presence of asbestos the employer must assume it is present and that it is not only “white asbestos”.

Regulation 7: Planning work

This regulation requires that no work is carried out where asbestos is present unless a written plan on work detailing how such work is to be carried out is created first. This plan needs to clearly state how the work is to be carried out, detailing how any waste is going to be removed and how the employer will make sure that the work is done in the way the plan says it should be.

Regulation 8/9: Licensing and notification of work

These regulations require, where any work is not capable of being defined as “sporadic and of low intensity”, that it is only carried out by a licensed asbestos contractor and that the proposed work is notified to the HSE. Generally any works that involve asbestos insulation, asbestos coatings or asbestos insulating board require a license.

Regulation 10: Information, instruction and training

This regulation introduces a new element to the legislation, the requirement that employers provide any employees who are or who might be exposed to asbestos with information and instruction about matters such as:

  • The properties of asbestos, its effects and even the interaction between asbestos and smoking
  • The types of materials present that are likely to contain asbestos
  • What working practices could cause asbestos to be released and why it is important that this doesn’t happen
  • How the work to be carried out can be done safely and the equipment that is needed
  • The waste handling procedures
  • The emergency procedures that may be required for all foreseeable circumstances

The appropriate training must be given at regular intervals and reflect the nature of the work being undertaken. The levels of detail required in this training should be suitable to the tasks involved in the job role and proportionate to the risk of exposure. It is important if you use if your use contractors that you challenge that those individuals working on your site have been given the appropriate training, instructions and information. Don’t forget although you can delegate the works to a contractor the responsibilities still ultimately rest with those in control of the premises.