Asbestos is a dangerous substance that is banned from use in the UK. Unsurprisingly, there are a number of legal obligations and complexities for owners of buildings who discover that asbestos is present somewhere on the premises.

Asbestos could potentially be found on any property in the UK that was built before 2000. While asbestos was made illegal to use in the UK in 1999, there are still a huge number of buildings with asbestos already in-situ. So, if you have found a material that you believe may be or contain asbestos it is important to have an asbestos survey carried out to understand whether it is present or not.

The responsibilities of building owners

Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, those who own or are responsible for non-residential buildings have a legal obligation to ensure that the people who use the building are safe from asbestos.

In UK law, the person responsible for the building has a duty of care to the people who live, work, or otherwise use the building and this means that they are obliged to put precautions and measures in place to limit the possibility of asbestos exposure. A big part of managing asbestos risk in taking steps to locate and remove any harmful asbestos or asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

The responsibilities of homeowners

The rules around residential properties are different, and there is no specific legal duty of care that a homeowner has with regard to asbestos. Even when you hire someone to work at your premises, you do not have a legal obligation to protect them against asbestos exposure. This is something that should be managed by the individual taking on the work.

Of course, for homeowners there is the strong motivation with regard to personal safety and the safety of your family to ensure that there is no risk of asbestos exposure.

Have an asbestos survey carried out

If you believe you have discovered or disturbed asbestos on your property, the first course of action is to have an asbestos survey carried out. With non-residential building owners, this is a legal necessity, whereas for homeowners it is advisable. This survey will look for asbestos, including carrying out testing on any potential material.

Regulations demand that the findings of survey must disseminated with anyone who might be at risk of asbestos exposure, in order to provide the location and condition of the asbestos to anyone who has the potential to come into contact with it.

You might also assume that you have a legal obligation to carry out asbestos removal to minimise risk, but this isn’t necessarily the case.

Removing asbestos

As asbestos is well known as a dangerous substance, it would be logical to assume that any legal obligation to minimise risk extends to removing asbestos that has been found in a survey. In fact, the reality is more complicated.

Asbestos is at its most dangerous when it is damaged or disturbed – often a necessary aspect of the removals process. If the asbestos is in good condition, it is often safer to leave the asbestos in situ and simply monitor it.

As a part of your duty of care, you are required to create an asbestos management plan. This draws on information from your asbestos survey, and it will direct whether it is necessary to have the material removed.

If you do need to have the asbestos removed, you should not attempt to do it yourself unless you have the training and experience do so. When asbestos fibres get into the air they can be breathed into the lungs – this can cause significant long-term damage if the level of exposure is high.

If you are interested in learning more about asbestos, or if you need to have a team of asbestos professionals remove the material for you, please get in contact with the team at Crucial Environmental today. We operate nationwide and can offer any kind of asbestos services that you need.