RICS Draft Guidance Note: Asbestos - legal requirements and best practice for property professionals and clients (4th edition)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

4.2.1 Preventing exposure

Inhalation of asbestos fibres from ACMs can cause a range of chronic and fatal diseases.

The fibres attack the vulnerable parts of the lung, such as the lining, upper bronchi and alveoli, which can cause diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer and asbestosis that only become evident after a latency period of between 20 and 50 years.

For asbestos fibres to enter the lung system, the ACM needs to be physically disturbed in some way. An ACM in good condition will present little to no risk because it will not release asbestos fibres.

Exposure to asbestos can be categorised as either occupational exposure or non-occupational exposure:

  • Individuals experience occupational exposure if their work brings them into contact with ACMs. This includes professionals in both the licensed and non-licensed asbestos removal sectors.
  • Individuals experience non-occupational exposure if they are exposed to a poorly-maintained ACM unexpectedly during the course of their work day or at home.

In order to prevent exposure, the ACM should be identified. Professionals should then ensure that it is not disturbed and is adequately maintained.

This can be achieved in three steps:

  • Locate the ACM.
  • Ensure all appropriate parties are aware of its location.
  • Ensure it is kept in good condition.

Locate the ACM

This can be achieved by sampling suspect material or carrying out an asbestos survey. Sampling is useful if there are few suspect materials. A suitably accredited surveyor or analyst will remove a small piece of the suspect material for laboratory analysis. Sampling is a hazardous activity and subject to the requirements of The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

However, sampling does not involve a detailed inspection of the whole area in the way a full asbestos survey does. An asbestos survey is more likely to identify all ACMs in a building. There are two types of asbestos survey:

  • management
  • refurbishment and demolition.

These are detailed in appendix C.

Ensure all appropriate parties are aware of the ACM's location

Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states that the appropriate parties must then be informed, in writing, of the location of the ACM. This information must include location plans and whether their work is likely to disturb the ACM.

Appropriate parties include individuals doing repairs and building work, but do not usually include normal building occupants. However, under a duty of care, building owners should make asbestos information available to any occupants who request it. In some locations, it may be prudent to advise staff if they could disturb ACMs during their normal duties, e.g. by pinning items to walls or ceilings.

Asbestos exposure can only be properly avoided by having a system for providing this information and accessing the asbestos register. This could also involve labelling ACMs or showing the register to contractors before work starts.

Ensure the ACM is kept in good condition

Any ACMs in a poor condition should be prioritised for repair or removal. If ACMs are in a good condition and are unlikely to be disturbed, they can be left in place as long as they are periodically checked for damage.