Asbestos has been used in the building and fitting out of many workplaces in Great Britain. Large amounts have been removed in recent years, but much still remains. Asbestos is only dangerous, however, when it is disturbed – if it is safely managed and contained, it does not present a health hazard.
The law does not require you to remove asbestos, but it does require you to manage it. In practical terms, this means you should ask yourself some questions before any maintenance work takes place:
- Have we had our premises surveyed to identify any asbestos containing materials?
- Do we have drawings or records clearly showing where the asbestos is and what condition it is in?
After that, you then need to think about doing repairs/sealing where necessary, marking it up, and thinking through how you are going to handle future maintenance tasks that might disturb it.
Important things to remember
- Don’t remove asbestos unnecessarily, it may be more practical to leave it in place and manage it.
- Some high risk work with asbestos can only be carried out by a licensed contractor (eg pipe insulation, insulation panels or sprayed asbestos coatings). The HSE asbestos licensing webpages provides further information.
- If you are in any doubt about whether materials contain asbestos, presume they do until you are sure they don’t.
The Asbestos website contains a wealth of useful additional information.and resources. The European Agency has also produced a simple and punchy factsheet with good illustrations on safe building maintenance involving asbestos.