Compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 means there are clear duties for premises owners to ensure that any potentially harmful asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) found to be present are correctly managed and do not expose any employees or others to a health risk.

Over 1.8 million people are annually exposed to asbestos with at least 2,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed every year. In 2008, the fatality figure reached nearly 2,500. The continued rise of asbestosis disease and the incurable mesothelioma cancer has placed the risk of eliminating exposure to asbestos – previously viewed as ’low risk’ – as a priority issue.

One official body taking a proactive approach is the Huntingdonshire District Council’s environmental and community health team. They are currently undertaking ‘targeted inspections’ of businesses to ensure compliance with ‘duty to manage asbestos’ under the Asbestos Regulations. An initial investigation in 2009 revealed that 40 per cent of businesses at least may be in breach of the legal requirements.

Asbestos awareness campaigns by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) have long highlighted that white asbestos (chrysotile) is still present in an estimated half a million properties, both commercial and residential, around the UK. Between 10 to 15 per cent of asbestos fibres was added to reinforce building products such as insulation wallboard (AIB), cement products, textured surface coatings, pipe lagging, roof sheeting, ceiling and floor tiles, etc

While it can be difficult to tell the difference between an asbestos cement product and a low-density insulation board, for example, any building constructed, converted or refurbished anytime up until the 1980s/90s should always be suspected of possessing hidden asbestos-containing materials. A final ban on asbestos imports in 1998 was not fully enforced until 2005.

Under Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 (CAR 2006), the legal requirements to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises state that ‘dutyholders’ should:

  • Take reasonable steps to determine the location of materials likely to contain asbestos.
  • Presume materials to contain asbestos, unless there are good reasons not to do so.
  • Make and maintain a written record of the location of the ACMs and presumed ACMs.
  • Assess and monitor the condition of ACMs and presumed ACMs.
  • Assess the risk of exposure from ACMs and presumed ACMs and prepare a written plan of the actions and measures necessary to manage the risk, i.e. the ‘management plan’.
  • Take steps to see that these actions are carried out.