RICS Draft Guidance Note: Asbestos - legal requirements and best practice for property professionals and clients (4th edition)

RICS Asbestos 4th edition consultation draft

4.1 Mitigation of risk to surveyors and their clients

Failure to comply with asbestos regulations can lead to the individual or organization suffering criminal prosecution, fines and civil damages not covered by professional indemnity insurance.

Non-compliance with asbestos regulations also poses an economic and reputational risk to clients. The immediate cost of addressing asbestos in their property, cost of management, impact on value and environmental liabilities need to be considered.

The consequences of not meeting individual and corporate responsibilities can have a devastating effect on the way that an individual is perceived by managers, colleagues, family and friends, as well as detracting from the reputation of the organisation as a whole. By failing in their legal duties, RICS members and regulated firms also risk bringing RICS into disrepute.

RICS members and regulated firms have a duty to cooperate and should be mindful that under their terms of engagement they could find themselves with elements of the dutyholder's responsibilities under The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (see section 3).

The term 'asbestos' has become synonymous with risk, disease and death. It is a material where even the products with the lowest risk can cause fear in building occupiers, and can prompt reactions ranging from apathy to paranoia. It is against this backdrop that surveyors and valuers report on the presence of ACMs.

For information on how asbestos may affect the valuation of real property interests, see RICS Valuation - Global Standards VPGA 8. Section 1.2, on inspection, states the following:

'Many matters may or will have an impact on the market's perception of the value of the relevant interest, aspects of which may only become fully apparent during an inspection of the property. These can include [...] hazardous materials kept on the property, such as (but not limited to) regulated items including chemicals, radioactive substances, explosive materials, asbestos, ozone depleting substances, oils, etc. or regulated activities being conducted such as waste management activity.'

4.1.1 Visiting sites

In property built prior to 2000, for RICS members' own health and safety, and as part of the general risk assessment required by the RICS member's employer, reasonable enquiries of the person in control of the property should be made as to whether the building is known to contain or suspected to contain asbestos. If so, details of significant risks, and of any procedures in place to control these, should be requested.

If no information is available, the RICS member should proceed, taking appropriate care based on their asbestos awareness training and knowledge of likely asbestos locations. This should be recorded in a risk assessment and method statement prior to a survey being carried out.

If, during the inspection, the RICS member notes the presence of asbestos that in their opinion constitutes a serious and immediate risk to health, section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 requires them to inform the person in control of the premises as soon as possible and advise them on the emergency measures required and who to contact to obtain specialist advice.

4.1.2 Duties to staff

RICS regulated firms and RICS members may encounter asbestos as part of the day-to-day activities they perform. Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 require these individuals to be provided with awareness training to ensure this risk (no matter how minimal) is controlled. Firms have a legal duty to supply staff, whether employed or contracted, with PPE suitable for the role to be undertaken. Specialist PPE should only be issued subject to assessment, appropriate training and maintenance.

If a client's instruction involves the requirement for surveyors with no specialist asbestos training to attend site wearing - or be expected to use - appropriate RPE, the RICS member or regulated firm being instructed should consider whether their appointment is appropriate in this instance.

4.1.3 Own premises

RICS regulated firms and RICS members have a legal duty to comply with The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 regarding the premises they occupy in the course of their business. In particular, this relates to Regulation 4, Duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises, if members are responsible for maintaining the fabric of the building (see sections 3.1.1 and 4.2.3).

4.1.4 Personal safety

RICS members and RICS regulated firms should conduct their work in accordance with RICS guidance, health and safety legislation, and good health and safety principles in order to minimise the risk to their personal safety. RICS members and RICS regulated firms are expected to refer to the relevant regulations and guidance for details, or consult an asbestos specialist.