Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Your Duty to Act Now to Halt This Killer

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

It's Your Duty to Act Now to Halt This Killer

Article excerpt

Byline: By Malcolm Shiels

Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 came into force on May 21, placing sweeping new obligations on owners, managers and occupiers of commercial property. Malcolm Shiels, occupational safety and health specialist with project managers and construction consultants Hall & Partners, explains the new regulations and the responsibilities they create for commercial property users.

The background statistics to the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations are fairly shocking. There have been 50,000 asbestos-related deaths since 1968 while past exposure to asbestos currently kills 3,500 people a year in Great Britain, a figure expected to rise to 10,000 by 2020.

This compares to the more publicised mortality figures of 3,450 who are killed on our roads each year, the 500 who die through murder and manslaughter and 195 who die through HIV. Asbestos is a killer and there are no known cures for asbestos-related diseases.

The Government therefore believes that the only way to stop the horrendous rise in asbestos-related illnesses and deaths is to prevent or minimise exposure to asbestos now. It is thought that well over 500,000 commercial and public buildings will be affected by the regulations.

But before anyone panics and thinks this means they have to rush to strip all asbestos out of their buildings, it doesn't. The first action should be to determine who is the dutyholder who the regulations affect and what they must do.

A dutyholder is basically anyone who owns, occupies, manages or has responsibility for non-domestic premises or the communal areas associated with residential property. It is a broad-based definition from which few will escape ( and those who do will find themselves with the legal duty to co-operate with whoever is deemed to be responsible for managing the asbestos risk.

The dutyholder must find out whether the building contains asbestos and what condition the asbestos is in and then assess the risk: for example, if the asbestos is likely to release fibres. He then must make a plan to manage that risk.

The first step is to find out if any asbestos-related materials (ACMs) are present. To do this you may wish to appoint a competent person to act on your behalf or you may wish to start with a desktop study to check out what you already know about your building from sources such as plans, specifications and other documents.

You should contact anyone who may have useful information about the building, such as an architect, quantity surveyor, or contractor. You should then carry out an inspection of the building and record the results of the inspection. Some materials such as glass, brick, stone and wood clearly do not contain asbestos but, where there is any doubt, the presumption must always be that the material does contain asbestos. …

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