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All employers and businesses have a legal
obligation to protect their workers from exposure to asbestos. In an ideal
scenario, employees should be prevented from ever coming into contact with
asbestos but when that simply is not possible you have a duty to ensure that
exposure is as minimal as possible.

The rules on asbestos regulations and removals

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 is
the most recent legislation in the UK, governing your responsibilities as an
employer. It is a legal requirement to adhere strictly to these regulations as
asbestos can present very serious medical problems to you and your staff. Read
on for more information about asbestos and what you need to do to stay in line
with the rules.
What are the risks for workers?
Asbestos is a very serious health hazard to
anyone who comes into contact with it. Used extensively in building works
through the 1950s, 60s and 70s, it was only fully banned in the UK in 1999.
Despite this, asbestos is known to be responsible for more than 4,000 deaths in
the UK every single year. The substance is especially dangerous because it can
take 15 years or longer for any symptoms to present themselves – at this point,
however, the damage is irreversible.
Exposure to asbestos can cause lung cancer
as well as mesothelioma – a cancer of the lining of the lungs, which is always
fatal and is only caused by asbestos. Aside from cancers, asbestos also causes
asbestosis, a condition where the lungs are scarred by fibres from the material.
This is not usually fatal, but it dramatically decreases quality of life. The
material can also cause diffuse pleural thickening, which swells the membrane
that surrounds the lungs.
Prolonged or cumulative exposure over time
makes asbestos-related diseases far more common, so if you work in a building
that contains asbestos or you are regularly contracted to sites that contain
asbestos it can be very seriously damaging to your health.
Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
The most recent legislation regarding
asbestos in the UK is the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. You must follow
these guidelines if you are aware of asbestos within your place of work. The
most important rule that applies to business owners is that if you are
responsible for a workplace, you have what’s known as a ‘duty to manage’ the
asbestos there. In practice this means you must protect anyone who works there.
However, it is also true that if the
asbestos is in good condition and is unlikely to be damaged (damage releases
the fibres into the air) then it has to be left where it is, although it must
be monitored and maintained so that its condition does not deteriorate.
There are also requirements surrounding
building or maintenance work that you need to carry out. You are required to
identify where the asbestos is in relation to the works, then assess, manage
and control the risks to ensure it will not be disturbed.
Advice for businesses
The Duty to Manage regulations are strict
but they are relatively easy to follow. The first thing you need to do if you
are responsible for a business property that contains asbestos is locate where
it is on the premises. You do not need to conduct a survey, but it is
definitely worth doing if you are concerned about any materials.
If asbestos is found to be present through
your inspection or a survey it is your duty to take steps to minimise any risk
regarding that asbestos. Consider the location of the asbestos and whether it
is likely to be disturbed. If it is unlikely to be disturbed you must simply
record information on its location and make that available to anyone who works
there.
If it is likely that the asbestos will be
disturbed or is already in a position to cause harm to employees then it is
your duty to have it removed safely. Any removal or other works regarding the
asbestos must be carried out by a licenced contractor, and you should never
attempt to carry out removals on your own.
Finally, you must produce a written plan
detailing the steps you have taken to minimise any risk of exposure to
asbestos.

Article provided by Mike James, an
independent content writer working together with Chartered Surveyors firm Bradley
Mason
, who were consulted over this post.