A guide to asbestos in buildings

If you own domestic residential property which does not have any communal areas then you need to ensure that you employ competent contractors to complete any repairs you may need as there is a requirement of them to comply with the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002.

However most flats and apartments will have a common area which means the Residents Management Company (RMC) and its directors become responsible to comply with the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 – the following should be observed.

Types of Asbestos

There are several types of asbestos likely to be present in buildings all can cause a range of diseases including asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Asbestos is the single biggest cause of work related illness, though most diseases will often not appear for years after the exposure.

Asbestos was widely used as a material in the building industry in the 60’s and 70’s and is still now present in many buildings. It was used as a lagging material for pipe work and structural steelwork, as well as in asbestos boarding for providing fire protection in walls and doors, and in asbestos cement roofing and cladding.

It is the fibres floating in the air which may be inhaled into the lungs that cause the damage, and it is therefore very important to avoid anything that could disturb the asbestos and produce a release of asbestos dust.

Fibres can become released if the asbestos is knocked or if the surface is breaking and cracking. Asbestos fibres can also be released during renovations and refurbishment work where contractors are working in the area altering enclosed or boxed areas and drilling holes.

Where asbestos is found to be in poor condition it needs to be promptly sealed, covered up or removed by a competent removal company that has been licensed by the Health & Safety Executive and should also be a member of the Asbestos Removal Contractors’ Association (ARCA).

Where asbestos is located it as long as it has been sealed, protected or enclosed or is in good condition you are required to mark the area with an asbestos warning sign.

You will also need to ensure you keep details of where the asbestos is present in your building and mark it on to plans to ensure it remains undisturbed when any future work is carried out in these areas.

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Where asbestos has been found, occasional checks will need to be taken to ensure its condition remains good.

It is suggested that a register be drawn up showing the date and notes of the condition and also useful where you have had areas tested and the materials fund not to contain asbestos – to prevent further check being needed in the future.

Important – when employing builders and contractors – you must always inform them of where any asbestos is located and ensure you make them aware of the health risks and that they must not disturb it and that they take adequate precautions whilst completing the work.

If work is being completed close to any materials containing asbestos – it may need to be carried out by a licensed contractor or advise be given to Health and Safety Executive or Environmental Health Authority.

The Health & Safety Executive can provide a list of local licensed contractors.

Where asbestos is located it is required to be disposed of according to the Special Waste Regulations 1996 legislation. Your local council will be able to provide you their confirmed approach to asbestos waste.