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Hot Topic Highlight - Asbestos



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What is today's blog about?


This week we will take a look at asbestos - the single biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. This is essential knowledge for many RICS APC competencies, including Inspection, Health & Safety and Valuation.


Essential reading for RICS APC and AssocRICS candidates.


You can also listen to our CPD podcast on Anchor for more free AssocRICS and RICS APC training and support.


Why is this relevant?


Asbestos kills. We need to be aware of the risks in order to advise our clients accordingly. This also ensures that we protect the health & safety of both ourselves and others.


What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a hazardous material which is harmful to health. More specifically, it is a naturally occurring fibrous mineral silicate which was historically used in building materials. 


There are three types of asbestos: crocidolite (blue), amosite (brown) and chrysotile (white).

Blue and brown asbestos were banned in the UK in 1985, whilst white asbestos was finally banned in 1999. 


Why is it harmful to health?


If asbestos is disturbed, it releases fibres into the atmosphere which, if inhaled can lead to asbestostosis (cancer). There is often a lag between exposure and harm to health; 20 tradespeople die each week in the UK from previous exposure to asbestos.


Who is at risk?

Anyone who disturbs asbestos, e.g. contractors involved with refurbishment, alterations or demolition, surveyors carrying out inspections.


Where is asbestos found?


  • Acoustic plaster

  • Adhesives

  • Ceiling tiles

  • Cement pipes and wallboard

  • Decorative plaster

  • Ducting

  • Fire curtains and doors

  • Fireproofing

  • Pipe insulation

  • Roof felt

  • Textured paint and coatings

  • Vinyl floor tiles

  • Wallboard

  • Amongst many other building components...


How do I recognise asbestos?


If a building was constructed pre-2000, then always assume that asbestos may be present.


The key thing to remember is to always seek specialist advice - most of us will not be qualified to advise clients in relation to asbestos.


What are the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012?


Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 imposes a legal duty to manage asbestos if it is present or presumed to be present. 


In the event of a substantial breach of the regulations, the penalties include an unlimited fine and up to 2 years' imprisonment.


Who is responsible for managing asbestos?


The duty-holder - either the owner (e.g. vacant premises) or occupier (e.g. tenant with a FRI lease) responsible for the repair and maintenance of commercial premises and the common parts of domestic premises. In multi-let properties, the duty may be shared between both parties.


How can asbestos be managed?


It is a legal requirement to carry out the following where a workplace contains asbestos:

  • Commission an asbestos survey and report to identify and record the location, amount and type of any Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs)

  • Using the asbestos survey and report, a management plan should be prepared to state how the risk of any ACMs will be managed, including an asbestos register recording the location and condition of the ACMs

  • Appropriate action taken to manage, repair or remove asbestos in line with the survey and report


The asbestos register should be updated annually (or more often if the risk of deterioration is high) and provided to contractors or surveyors when inspections or work are being carried out.


The management plan should be reviewed 6 monthly or after refurbishment, change of use or changes in company procedures.


How can asbestos be removed?

If asbestos needs to be removed, then contractors need to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. The asbestos will be categorised as licensable or non-licensable (e.g. cement panels, matrix bound asbestos toilet cisterns). 


For the removal of licensable asbestos, contractors need to be on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) licence list.


For the removal of non-licensable asbestos, contractors generally do not need to be licensed but the work must be carried out by suitably trained workers. However, in some cases non-licensed work must still be notified to HSE, written records kept and contractors placed under health surveillance by their GP.


In any case, all ACMs must be disposed of at an Environment Agency licensed asbestos site.


How do I value a building if asbestos is present?


If you suspect that asbestos is present, then you must recommend to your client that specialist advice is sought. You can then reflect the impact on value of the asbestos in your valuation advice. 


How do I deal with asbestos in agency work?


Before any purchase or sale transaction, you will want to review a copy of the asbestos report for a property - this will often be requested by the lawyers as part of the due diligence process and is an essential component of providing prudent client advice. 


Equally, in a leasing/letting transaction you will want to see an asbestos report to ensure that you manage the associated risk for your client.


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Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you


N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal or financial advice.