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What to Do If You Suspect Asbestos at Your Workplace

March 13th, 2024

Last updated: June 25th, 2024

Asbestos is one of the tragic tales of our time. Once widely used in construction for its fire-resistant and insulating properties, it is now recognised as a severe health hazard. Exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to serious health conditions, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis.

If you suspect asbestos at your workplace or commercial premises, it’s crucial to take immediate action to protect the health and safety of everyone on the premises. It is also crucial that you do not do any investigative work yourself. Leave the area well alone.

So what do you do in this scenario?

This guide provides essential steps to follow if you suspect asbestos and outlines the necessary precautions and procedures to ensure proper processes are used.

Recognising Asbestos

Before taking action, it’s essential to be able to recognise signs of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in your workplace or commercial premises.

Common materials that may contain asbestos include insulation, ceiling tiles, floor tiles, roofing materials, and pipe insulation. Asbestos fibres are not visible to the naked eye, but damaged or deteriorating materials may release fibres into the air, posing a health risk.

HSE has an exceptional guide where they also show a lot of different images of asbestos, to help you to compare the images and know the signs to look out for.

Immediate Steps

If you suspect asbestos at your workplace or commercial premises, it’s crucial to take immediate precautions to minimise the risk of exposure.

This includes restricting access to the area suspected of containing asbestos and preventing anyone from disturbing or handling the materials. Inform employees and occupants of the suspected asbestos presence and advise them to avoid the area until further assessment and remediation can be completed.

HSE’s guidelines are to both stop work and speak to your employer, or the building owner, to find out if there is asbestos in the building.

Employers should have a risk assessment that includes factors like volume and the ventilation of the space, and they should have paid close attention to their responsibilities when it comes to asbestos and its effects.

Your employer should ask to see the building’s asbestos register or survey, and certain work can only be carried out by a licensed asbestos contractor.

A licensed asbestos surveyor will inspect the premises, identify any asbestos-containing materials, and assess the condition and risk of exposure. The survey report will outline the location, type, and condition of ACMs and recommend appropriate measures for management or removal.

Managing Asbestos

Based on the findings of the asbestos survey, develop an asbestos management plan to manage the risks associated with asbestos-containing materials in your workplace or commercial premises. The management plan should include procedures for monitoring, maintenance, and control of ACMs to prevent exposure and ensure compliance with legal requirements.

The duty to manage asbestos is a legal requirement under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (Regulation 4). If you’re the owner of a commercial property or run a business from one, the chances are you have the responsibility for maintenance and repair activities. In addition, you’ll have a duty to assess the presence and condition of any asbestos-containing materials. HSE explains that “If asbestos is present, or is presumed to be present, then it must be managed appropriately.”

In most commercial properties, the following asbestos control and management regulations apply if asbestos is found:

  • assess if there are asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) present, the amount, where they are and their condition
  • presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not
  • make, and keep up to date, a record or register of the location and condition of the ACMs or presumed ACMs
  • assess the risk of anyone being exposed to airborne fibres from the ACMs
  • write an asbestos management plan to manage the risk, put the plan into action, monitor it and review it every 12 months or sooner if necessary
  • monitor the condition of any ACMs or suspected ACMs
  • provide information on the location and condition of the ACMs to anyone who may work on or disturb them, including the emergency services

Asbestos Training

Educate employees and occupants about the dangers of asbestos exposure and the proper procedures for handling and managing asbestos-containing materials. Provide training on how to recognise asbestos, report suspected asbestos, and follow safety protocols to prevent exposure. Raise awareness about the risks associated with asbestos and the importance of adhering to established procedures to protect everyone’s health and safety.

Next Steps

For further reading, HSE has a huge amount of learning materials about asbestos that outlines the legal responsibilities.

If asbestos is found in a commercial property, it is the responsibility of the owner or occupier to ensure that it is managed safely. An asbestos management survey can help you to work out what steps you might take.

Looking for a reliable, professional asbestos surveyor in Yorkshire? Get in touch to see how Robinsons Facilities Services can help.

Our team of highly accredited specialists covers North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, East Yorkshire and South Yorkshire.

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