RICS Draft Guidance Note: Asbestos - legal requirements and best practice for property professionals and clients (4th edition)

RICS Asbestos 4th edition consultation draft

4.2.3 Duty to manage asbestos

There is a specific requirement in the UK for dutyholders, those ultimately responsible for the maintenance of non-domestic premises, to manage the risks from asbestos. For buildings built before asbestos was banned in 1999, this is done by carrying out a survey to enable an asbestos register to be compiled, assessing the risk from any identified asbestos and then making sure the risks are managed by passing on asbestos information and creating an ongoing plan to manage the risks.

The duty to manage asbestos was introduced in 2002. Research at the time showed the occupational group most at risk from exposure to asbestos was the building, construction, repairs and maintenance sector, and that a quarter of annual asbestos-related deaths occurred in this sector.

In order to safely and responsibly manage asbestos for which you are responsible, take the following steps.

Step 1: find out whether asbestos is present

ACMs may be present if the building was constructed or refurbished before 2000. This can be ascertained by carrying out a survey or consulting others who may already have this information. Asbestos can also be presumed to be present based on knowledge of the type of construction or material involved. In the absence of any information on asbestos, this is the only way to proceed unless all materials present can be positively identified as not containing asbestos.

Step 2: assess the condition of any ACMs

Assess the type, amount and condition of any ACMs, or presumed ACMs, in terms of how likely they are to release asbestos fibres into the air if disturbed. This will help you decide what to do next.

Step 3: survey and sample for asbestos

Suitably trained and competent specialists can carry out an asbestos survey of the premises to identify ACMs, particularly if maintenance or refurbishment work, or the installation of wiring and/or other building services, is planned. The survey should identify what types of ACMs are present, where they are and what condition they are in (see appendix C).

Step 4: keep a written record or register

Prepare a record based upon the survey that shows where the asbestos or presumed asbestos is, the type, and what condition it is in. This record needs to be simple, clear and always available at the premises so that anyone who needs to know where the ACMs are can easily find them. The record could be an annotated plan or diagram, a written list or a computer-based record - storing it electronically can make it easier to update and distribute. There may be some areas of the premises that are not made available or accessible for the asbestos surveyor to inspect, such as: roofs; secure areas; spaces such as lift shafts, electrical equipment, etc. that require attendance by other trades (e.g. a lift engineer or electrician); and concealed spaces within ducts, walls and partitions that require opening-up work to gain access. These should be noted on the drawing and it should be presumed that ACMs may be present until a proper check is made.

Step 5: act on the findings

Using the asbestos information, prepare and implement a plan to manage these risks. Give high priority to damaged materials as well as those likely to be disturbed, as these will need to be repaired, sealed or removed. If the material is in good condition and is unlikely to be worked on or disturbed, it is usually safer to leave it in place and manage it in situ.

Step 6: keep the records up to date

Unless it is a very low risk, any asbestos left in place will need to be managed by periodic reinspection. The time between inspections will depend on the type of material, where it is and its condition. The frequency of reinspection should depend on the risk assessment: the greater the risk of damage/deterioration, the more frequent the reinspection. For example, damaged AIB on a door in a frequently used corridor may need to be inspected weekly until it is removed. Check that the arrangements to control the risks set out in the plan have been put in place and are working effectively. The plan should be reviewed if there are significant changes that will affect these arrangements, for example if different sorts of work are carried out on the premises, or if any of the ACMs are removed. The overall management plan should also be reviewed at least every 12 months, or when significant changes within the organisation occur.

Step 7: provide the information to those who need it

Make sure that everyone who needs to know about the asbestos is made aware of its presence, e.g. maintenance workers, contractors, surveyors, etc. Asbestos can be labelled with a warning sign, or the register can be shown to anyone about to carry out work in the building. Whichever way this is done, the important thing is to make sure that those who might work on the material know that it contains, is presumed to contain or may contain asbestos before they start work. Similarly, make sure anyone who might accidently or inadvertently disturb or damage it is made aware of it, so that they take care to avoid doing so.

It may be prudent to carry out checks both prior to and following any work to ensure ACMs have not been disturbed.

Certain premises may have responsibilities that are shared between more than one party. In these circumstances, all parties have a duty to cooperate and share information with the other parties. Anyone who is not a dutyholder, but has information on or control of parts of the premises, has a legal duty to cooperate with the dutyholder so they can fulfil their obligations.

Occupiers with multiple sites should take a strategic view across all sites, setting out minimum standards and objectives to be followed at each site.