Many small business owners are unsure of what they need to know about asbestos. The material is widely known to be dangerous, but there are many misunderstandings about it, and what businesses are required to do about it. This is especially true of smaller businesses who may have only recently opened a business premises.
Businesses are governed by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 which hold a number of strict rules regarding what is to be done in order to control the substance and minimise the risk of exposure. It is absolutely vital that companies adhere to these rules, not only because asbestos can be extremely dangerous, but also because your company can be heavily fined if you do not follow the rules.
In this article we take a look at the facts about asbestos and how this relates to small businesses.
Asbestos use is illegal (but you can still find it)
Asbestos was officially and completely banned in the UK in 1999, making it illegal to use the substance in any kind of work on residential or commercial buildings. However, this has led to a misconception that this means that asbestos no longer exists in properties in the UK. It is important to note that the ban was on the use of asbestos – there was no requirement to remove or destroy any current asbestos.
This means that it is still present in many buildings that were built before 2000. So unless you operate from a property that was built after 2000, there is a chance that it could contain asbestos.
The risks of asbestos exposure
Asbestos has a reputation for being very dangerous, and this is well-founded. According to asbestos specialists Crucial Environmental “when materials containing asbestos become disturbed or damaged, they release microscopic fibres into the air. Once these fibres have become airborne, people working around the area can then inhale the particles into their lungs”. When these fibres get into the lungs, they are extremely difficult to remove, and while the damage doesn’t result in immediate danger, the damage is done over a long period.
Ultimately, symptoms may not present for in excess of 20 years after exposure – but asbestos exposure is considered the direct cause of a number of conditions including various cancers and conditions affecting the lining of the lungs. It is necessary, then, for you to take asbestos very seriously.
If you own a property…
If you are the landlord of a business property then you have a duty of care to ensure that the risk of asbestos exposure is minimised to you, your employees, and any members of the general public. Ultimately this means establishing whether any asbestos is present at your property – usually through an asbestos survey – and having a plan in order to minimise the risks.
If you have recently bought a property you should have details of any known asbestos provided to you by the seller. However, it should be noted that asbestos is not always known about.
If you are leasing…
If your business is leasing a property then it is important that you should check with the landlord over who is responsible for managing asbestos at the property. Once again, any asbestos found should be detailed to you by the landlord. However, you may be required to correctly maintain and supervise the asbestos under the conditions of the lease.
You need an action plan
If you are responsible for the asbestos in your property, then you need to have an action plan in place. This plan should detail any known asbestos on the property, provide insight into the condition of the asbestos, and also have a plan to ensure that the asbestos is not disturbed or to ensure that it does not deteriorate.
In the majority of cases, asbestos in good condition is not a threat to health. It is only when the fibres are disturbed that it becomes dangerous.
You can’t do it all yourself
It is important to note that no matter what you need to do about your asbestos, you will need expert advice and guidance. Asbestos specialists can provide you with information not only about the asbestos and its condition, but also in establishing a plan that puts in the necessary precautions to keep every in your business premises safe.