In April this year, a leading hotel chain was ordered to pay more than £200,000 in fines and costs after construction workers and guests were put at risk of asbestos exposure at The Grand Burstin Hotel in Folkestone. The hotel failed to ensure a full asbestos survey was undertaken prior to the commencement of works, a failing in terms of their legal obligations for the control of asbestos related hazards.
Since 1999 it has been illegal to construct buildings containing asbestos, but in the past, particularly during the 1960’s, a great many construction projects were undertaken and completed using asbestos materials. Although when in good condition and unlikely to be damaged, asbestos is considered largely safe, issues arise when the asbestos materials breakdown or suffer impact damage resulting in the fibres becoming airborne.
Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos-related diseases, mainly cancers of the lungs and chest lining. The Health and Safety Executive advises that past exposure to asbestos currently kills around 4500 people a year in Great Britain and that workers who carry out building maintenance and repair are particularly at risk. As there is usually a long delay between the initial exposure to asbestos and the onset of disease – up to 60 years – the only way of ultimately reducing the incidence of asbestos-related disease is to minimise exposure. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 state that if you are responsible for the maintenance of non-domestic premises you have a ‘duty to identify and manage’ the asbestos in them, and to protect anyone using or working in the premises from the risks to health posed by asbestos exposure.
So how can you achieve this?
First of all, if your building was constructed pre-1999, you should determine whether there are any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) on site. This is usually achieved by undertaking an asbestos survey and risk assessment. This must be carried out by a competent contractor. Further details can be found here.
If ACMs are present, then the assessment will recommend the action to be taken. It is likely you will need to manage them either by having them safely removed from site or by having them encapsulated to ensure no fibres are released into the local environment. Both of these tasks should be carried out by a licensed contractor.
If any ACMs remain they must be labelled and an asbestos register kept indicating their exact location. The asbestos register must be available at all times and kept up to date.
Employees must be trained regarding the presence of the asbestos and how the risks are being controlled in the business. The training should also include what to do in an emergency. Controls must also be in place to notify any contractors of its presence, so as to ensure the asbestos is not damaged.
Asbestos should be inspected every six months or more frequently if advised in the asbestos survey. Appropriate records should be kept.
Please contact Food Alert on 020 7244 1900 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any enquiries.