If you have just set up a new business or own a commercial or industrial property, you will need to ensure that your employees are healthy and safe in their working environment. Even the most responsible employer may not be aware of the potential risks of asbestos within the working environment, as it is often well hidden within a building. Asbestos was commonly used in a variety of building materials, such as lagging, ceiling tiles and roofing felt, before it was banned in the 1980s. Asbestos still poses many health risks, such as lung cancer, to anyone exposed to its fibres whilst working inside a building. If your property was built before the year 2000, it is your duty as an employer to ensure that there is minimal risk of exposure to asbestos within your property.
Your duty as an employer
Firstly, it is essential to know that asbestos and new products produced from asbestos are banned under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. For most employers, these regulations are more applicable to managing a property where asbestos may already be present. This is particularly relevant if you are planning to do any building or maintenance work to the property, as a disturbance may increase the risk of asbestos exposure.
To be on the safe side, you should always assume that asbestos is likely to be present, rather than assuming it is not. Start by getting your property checked out by trained professionals who will carry out a full asbestos survey to uncover the presence and condition of any asbestos containing materials. If these materials are in good condition, they may be left undisturbed, but the property must still be managed in the long-term to protect your employees.
Once the initial assessment is carried out, you should record the location and condition of the asbestos for future reference and assess the risk of exposure to anyone working within the building. An asbestos management plan should be drawn up detailing how best to minimise the risks and a periodic review should be put in place to monitor the asbestos in the future. In addition, you should inform anyone working in the property of the presence of asbestos to reduce any further risks.