RICS Draft Guidance Note: Asbestos - legal requirements and best practice for property professionals and clients (4th edition)

RICS Asbestos 4th edition consultation draft

4.2.4 Passing on asbestos information to those who need it

If asbestos has been identified within a building, exposure can only be prevented by passing this information on to anyone who may be exposed, whether by occupancy or by conducting maintenance, refurbishment, demolition or other building work. Information should also be passed on at the point of sale or letting to the new owner/occupier. When following construction works, the passing of information, in the form of a health and safety file, is a legal requirement under the CDM Regulations.

There are a number of different ways in which information on asbestos can be passed on to anyone carrying out building, maintenance or other installation work, and the more proactive this process is, the better and safer it is. It can be achieved in the following ways:

  • Ensure the people that are planning the intended work have considered any asbestos risks. In order to prepare a suitable method statement with risk assessments, the client will need to supply this information to the contractor.
  • Attach the asbestos register to any works order request or purchase order.
  • Introduce a permit to work system, which controls all building work.
  • Make maintenance work an authorised activity that can only proceed if the asbestos register is consulted.
  • Ensure the asbestos register is available for inspection at reception.
  • Consider labelling ACMs with the standard asbestos warning labels, particularly in plant rooms or other restricted areas where labelling is less likely to cause alarm or be the focus of deliberate damage.

Any information provided has to be clear, concise and easily understood by the end user.

There is no standard procedure for providing asbestos information. A large multi-building site, with lots of maintenance work going on in areas where there is known to be asbestos, will need a more robust system than a small shop that does not have any regular maintenance programmes.

It is important to decide how you can best disseminate this information. An organisation that relies on contractors using hand-held devices and electronic works orders will be more suited to web-based software. An organisation that does not use such a sophisticated system could have a similarly effective, but less complex, way of sharing asbestos information.

Whichever way this is achieved, it should be bespoke to the organisation and frequently tested to ensure there are no failures in the system that may lead to asbestos being disturbed, with the resulting exposure risk and business costs.

An asbestos register is usually compiled following a management survey. The scope of a management survey is limited to identifying asbestos in surface materials, for example the outer facing of wall or ceiling material. It will not identify ACMs that are concealed within the building structure, fabric or services. In order to locate ACMs hidden in this way, a more intrusive refurbishment and demolition survey would need to be carried out prior to any building work that may expose them.

During the negotiation for the selling or letting of a property, and depending on the contractual role, it is important to either request or provide the asbestos register and asbestos management plan. Be aware that the management plan will be occupier-specific and may not be relevant to a different occupier, depending on how they will use the premises.

If these documents are not available or unsuitable for the proposed use, a note of this, along with the likely risk of any ACMs being present in the property and the need for a specialist asbestos survey and revised management plan, if appropriate, should be provided to the client.