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When asbestos management goes wrong

Updated 16 August 2023.

As specialists in asbestos management, based in Kent, we aim to inform and educate in order to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos and the importance of following asbestos management regulations.

In the blog 'Why do I need an Asbestos Survey?', we explained under what circumstances an Asbestos Register is required and why an asbestos survey should be undertaken.

The duty to manage asbestos is contained in regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 which provides the key responsibilities of the duty holder. If you are in any doubt as to whether you are the duty holder and need advice about asbestos, contact us.

Now, what seems to have been happening since this regulation came into force, is that companies are having their Asbestos Management Surveys carried out and checking to see if there is anything to worry about. If Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) are detected the common mistake is to react to it without putting a management plan in place. 

To help explain how problems arise, here are some scenarios.

Scenario 1 (the wrong way):

A company (duty holder) reviews their compliance and finds that they need to have an Asbestos management survey carried out, to establish the presence of ACMs. From this, an Asbestos Register is produced.

A year later, the company (duty holder) makes contact with a specialist for a re-inspection and emails over the original survey. The whole of the Asbestos Register in the survey is then quoted for within the re-inspection visit.

The problem with this is that in the original survey, say in 2010, there were 10 items identified as ACMs, with 7 of them just needing to be monitored. Now the other 3 items varied from encapsulate to remove. 

The company (duty holder) followed the recommendations and had 2 items removed and 1 encapsulated. Unfortunately the 3 items were dealt with by different departments and no one planned the work cost effectively. Had this decision been made as part of the company’s Asbestos Management Plan, the works would have been specified as one job to an HSE licensed contractor and the cost would have been much lower than the 3 separate visits which ensued. Additionally, the information would have been documented.

If a management plan had been put in place, the re-inspection request for 2011 would have confirmed that 8 items need risk assessing to confirm their condition and 2 needed confirmation that they were no longer there. The independent specialist would then confirm their findings and ensure that the duty holder referred to the removal paperwork within their management plan.

This works to some degree for the first year, but when the same happens for the second, third, fourth and subsequent years, the memory of what happened in year 2 has gone. No one knows where the paperwork is to confirm that the 2 items have been removed appropriately, let alone the other 5 items that now seem to be missing. No one knows when or how that happened.

It’s all a bit of a mess.

If a management plan had been in place, the first re-inspection in 2011 would have been as above, but the second re-inspection in 2012 would have been different. With the benefit of the independent specialist confirming in 2011 that the items were no longer in-situ and that the management plan had been updated with the supporting information, there would now only be 8 items on the 2011 management plan to manage. This would be revision 1.

Scenario 2 (the correct way):

Towards the end of 2012, the same company/duty holder needed to refurbish one of the areas that contained 2 of the ACMs on the register. A pre-refurb asbestos survey is carried out and any additional findings are added to the live Asbestos Management Plan.  Using this, the business assesses the risk and decides that the asbestos containing toilet cistern can stay in place, but that the Asbestos Insulation Board (AIB) boxing in the corner needs to be removed to enable the wall to come out. 

The responsible department plans the works and updates the Asbestos Management Plan to record the AIB boxing was removed in 2012 with information on where to find the supporting documentation, i.e., the HSE notification, plan of works, air test and waste consignment note.

When the re-inspection request arrives in 2013, it would now say that 8 items needed re-inspecting and that 1 item had been removed. The independent specialist attends the site and again, confirms that everything is as it should be. The management plan is updated and revision 2 has 7 items to manage.

Permit to Work

Whenever a contractor is required to carry out work, the permit to work system (please refer to the blog 'Why do I need an asbestos survey?') must be adhered to. This will ensure that the current management plan is sent to the contractor, to ensure that they also comply with all the relevant regulations. 

With a current management plan, you aren’t creating confusion for the contractor, as there will be a record of current ACMs and a history of when/how any others were disposed of. In our original scenario the contractor would now be asking if you would like them to quote for the AIB boxing to be removed that was on the original survey you sent them. In the correct scenario, the current management plan has confirmed it isn’t there anymore. That item is obsolete and there is no need for anyone to spend time on it.

And a common misconception:

There are duty holders who believe that it is the contractor's responsibility to assess the work and plan appropriately. Whilst we agree that the contractor has a duty of care, abdicating responsibility is not acceptable. As the duty holder you have a responsibility to keep everyone safe, be it the occupants or the contractors.

Having said the above, say that you do choose to abdicate the responsibility and essentially keep your fingers crossed that everything goes OK?  What happens when it doesn’t?  Does the contractor sort the mess out or are you, the duty holder left fire-fighting a large problem because the contractor has now gone AWOL?  Wouldn’t it be so much easier, let alone safer, to just do it right in the first place?

Seek advice from Asbestos Limited, the Kent specialists, if you're unsure about who owns responsibility for managing asbestos.

Need help or advice?

This blog has detailed some scenarios when the management of asbestos goes wrong. If you've not yet read it, the first blog 'Why do I need an Asbestos Survey?', explained under what circumstances an Asbestos Register is required and why an asbestos survey should be undertaken.

If you’re interested in further information get in touch via our Enquiry form or call us on 01634 23 22 21.

Asbestos regulations are complex, but with our help, managing it isn’t complicated.