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Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

By: Abigail Taylor - Updated: 15 Dec 2014 | comments*Discuss
Asbestos Control Risk Mesothelioma

Most of us know that asbestos is dangerous, but just how dangerous? Asbestos fibres are very light and float in the air. If you breathe these in, they can cause asbestos-related cancer of the lungs and chest lining (called mesothelioma). There is usually a long delay between first exposure and the onset of the disease, often 15 - 60 years. Past exposure to asbestos kills around 4500 people a year in the UK.

Who is at the greatest risk?

  • Builders, demolition contractors, roofers and other construction contractors.
  • Anyone installing electronics in walls could also be at risk.
  • If asbestos products are in poor condition and readily disturbed, those occupying the property could also be at risk.

Whilst it is now illegal to use asbestos in construction of any kind, asbestos was used in copious amounts pre 2000 and so still exists in many older buildings. It is therefore extremely important that regulations governing the handling of asbestos are observed.

Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (COAB) are designed to ensure the safe handling of asbestos, both for the benefit of those handling it, and the general public in the surrounding area.

Who has a duty to manage asbestos under COAB?

  • Building owners
  • Building managers, even if you have no formal contract to manage it
  • If you are responsible for the building by way of a contract or tenancy agreement
  • Those who have a duty to manage asbestos under COAB are called 'Duty Holders'.

What buildings are affected by COAB?

  • Non-domestic buildings of any type
  • Common areas of domestic buildings (e.g. stairwells, lift shafts, roof spaces)
All other domestic buildings are not affected.

What duties are imposed by COAB on Duty Holders?

1. You must find out if there is asbestos in the premises, its location and its condition. If a material may contain asbestos, you should assume that it does unless you have strong evidence to the contrary.
2. You must make and keep up to date a written record of the location and condition of any asbestos containing (or potential asbestos containing) materials in your property
3. You must assess the risk from any such material and plan how to manage that risk.
4.You must actively manage any risk caused by asbestos containing (or potential asbestos containing) materials.
5. You must provide this information to anyone who is working on and / or is likely to disturb that material.

How to identify asbestos

  • Sprayed asbestos was used as fire protection in ducts and ceiling voids
  • Lagging containing asbestos was used as thermal insulation for pipes and boilers
  • Asbestos insulating boards were used as fire protection in wall partitions and ducts
  • Asbestos cement products were used in water tanks and roofing
  • Products containing asbestos were used in decorative plaster and paints
  • Bitumen containing asbestos was used in roofing felt and ceiling tiles

If you suspect that asbestos is in your property, particularly if you plan to carry out renovation works, it is often best to instruct a specialist to carry out an asbestos survey. Organisations that sample and analyse asbestos are accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). A list of UKAS accredited experts can be found at www.ukas.com/tools/contact-ukas.asp.

What to do if asbestos is discovered

If you discover asbestos in your premises, what action(s) you take will depend upon its condition.

Good condition:

  • Monitor the condition of the material at regular intervals
  • Where practical, label the material as containing asbestos
  • Inform any contractor who is likely to work on or disturb the material about your concerns
Minor damage:
  • Repair the material
  • Monitor the condition of the material at regular intervals
  • Inform any contractor who is likely to work on or disturb the material about your concerns
Poor condition:
  • Any asbestos in poor condition should be removed by a suitably experienced and accredited contractor.
Likely to be disturbed:
  • No matter what condition asbestos or asbestos containing products are in, if they are likely to be disturbed, they should be removed by an accredited contractor for safety reasons.

Further information

For further information about asbestos and The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, visit www.hse.gov.uk.

Contractors will also be bound by The Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005. Further information for contractors can be found at www.arca.org.uk (the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association).

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