What are the best practices for record-keeping of asbestos materials in the UK?

Asbestos might have been banned in the UK in all forms since 1999, but this does not mean the substance is now of merely “historical” significance. It is believed that there could still be as many as 1.5 million buildings across the UK in which the substance is present.

So, where asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) do still exist in premises up and down the country, there remains a need for these to be managed in accordance with the UK’s current stringent asbestos law.

As part of this, those who are responsible for managing and maintaining such buildings will need to be diligent with their record-keeping. Such documentation will make its own contribution to keeping people safe from exposure to this carcinogenic material, which is still responsible for around 5,000 deaths a year in the UK.

Breathing in or ingesting asbestos fibres can heighten the exposed individual’s risk of developing a potentially extremely serious health condition, such as mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer, many decades later.

So, what are some of the record-keeping practices that you should be following if you have responsibility for a UK property that contains asbestos?

What are the best practices for record-keeping of asbestos materials in the UK?

What are the legal requirements for asbestos recordkeeping in the UK?

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, also referred to as CAR 2012, are the principal overarching asbestos regulations in Great Britain. This legislation puts in place a “duty to manage” asbestos for the person or organisation that is responsible for the maintenance or repair of a given non-domestic premises.

There are various record keeping responsibilities that dutyholders have under CAR 2012. They will need, for example, to determine the specific details about ACMs in their building, including the location(s), amount(s), and condition of any such materials.

To accomplish this, the dutyholder can arrange an asbestos survey of the property. The information that emerges from this process can then be used to produce an asbestos register, as well as an asbestos management plan for the premises.

Every dutyholder should be mindful of the serious legal consequences they could face if they fail to comply with the CAR 2012 recordkeeping requirements. If they don’t put in place an asbestos management plan, for instance, they could be risking fines as much as £20,000, or a prison sentence of up to six months.

In instances where asbestos management failures lead to significant health risks or exposure, courts can impose unlimited fines with the fine being determined by the severity of the breach and the potential or actual harm caused. Individuals responsible for such severe breaches can also face up to two years in prison. This particularly applies to cases where there has been a deliberate violation of the regulations.

A recent example occurred when the builders’ merchant, Jewson, was fined £400,000 for asbestos management failures at their Middlesbrough site. The fine was imposed as a result of the company’s neglect in properly inspecting and managing asbestos, which led to the release of asbestos fibres, posing significant health risks to workers and visitors.

What information should be included in asbestos records?

As a dutyholder or employer under CAR 2012, you should be looking to ensure your records in relation to the management of asbestos at your premises include the following:

Details of the asbestos survey

Much of the entire purpose of having an asbestos survey carried out at a property – besides legal compliance – is to determine the exact asbestos situation at that building.

So, the survey will need to uncover details of the type(s) and location(s) of any ACMs identified. Records will need to be kept of this information, so that the best possible decisions can be made on how the ACMs are managed.

Alongside this, such details as the date of the survey, and the name of the surveyor, will need to be kept. We have written previously about the information that you can expect to see in an asbestos survey report, which will be presented to you following completion of the survey.

The survey report will encompass such information as the name and address of the premises surveyed, the name and address of the laboratory, details of the survey company, the survey method used, a bulk analysis report and table, and much more.

Risk assessments and management plans

Prior to commencing any work that is likely to disturb asbestos, an employer will be required to undertake a suitable and sufficient risk assessment. Having determined the risks created by the likely exposure to asbestos, they will need to identify the essential steps for ensuring compliance with the regulations.

Whoever performs the risk assessment will need to record any significant findings in writing, whether electronically or on paper. The risk assessment must encompass such aspects as how the intended work will be carried out, and the controls that will be used to reduce exposure (such as controlled wetting or local exhaust ventilation), accounting for the condition and risk level of the ACMs.

The asbestos management plan, too, is a hugely important element of the recordkeeping for a property with ACMs. It outlines the procedures and arrangements to manage the risks that ACMs pose at the given site.

Your own building’s asbestos management plan can be in either written or electronic form. Regardless, it must be site-specific and easy to find whenever you or someone else needs to access it.

The management plan will need to incorporate such details as the identities of the people responsible for managing asbestos at the premises, as well as the asbestos register, and the schedule for monitoring the condition of the ACMs.

It should also set out the control arrangements aimed at preventing future ACMs disturbance at the site, and the emergency procedures to be followed if disturbance does occur.

Records of asbestos training for employees

Regulation 10 of CAR 2012 stipulates that employers must ensure anyone liable to disturb asbestos as part of their work, or who supervises such employees, receives the correct level of information, instruction, and training to allow them to undertake their work safely and competently, and without risk to themselves and other people.

We have previously written extensively about the various categories of asbestos training, and their suitability for different categories of workers. As an employer, you should be keeping a record of the types of training your identified personnel have undergone, along with the dates this training was delivered.

Documentation of asbestos removal or remediation work

The mere fact of asbestos being discovered in a particular non-domestic premises does not mean there is an automatic need for the ACMs to be removed from the property. Depending on the level of risk that the ACMs on the site are judged to present, another form of asbestos remediation may be chosen, such as encapsulation.

However, regardless of whether asbestos removal or another type of asbestos remediation is followed, the work will need to be suitably documented. This should mean details being kept of the identity of the contractor, as well as the dates of work and the methods used.

If a licensed asbestos removal task is carried out – in other words, an asbestos removal project that requires a licence from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – there will be a need for a subsequent four-stage clearance process. This will confirm that the work complies with the requirements laid out by CAR 2012.

Following the successful completion of this four-stage clearance process, a certificate of reoccupation – also often described as an “asbestos clearance certificate” – will be issued for the area in which the asbestos removal work was carried out. Until then, no one who isn’t wearing suitable personal protective equipment (PPE) will be able to safely enter that area.

How often should asbestos records be updated?

Another element of good practice is ensuring that regular reviews are undertaken of your asbestos records.

By taking the time to update records as and when needed, including if changes occur following re-inspections and assessments, you can help ensure you are always making decisions on the basis of the latest and most accurate information.

One subject that we are often asked about here at Oracle Solutions, is the period of validity for an asbestos survey. We have previously covered this matter in detail in our Learning Centre, explaining that such factors as the type of survey, and any work that you intend to do on the relevant ACMs, will affect the requirements applicable to you.

As part of your asbestos management plan, you should be arranging to have your building’s ACMs inspected regularly – no less often than once a year. If you fail to re-inspect as frequently as this, the condition of the ACMs may be at risk of changing to such a degree that the previous asbestos survey is effectively no longer valid.

It is essential to update your asbestos register in line with any changes in risk – for example, any deterioration in the ACMs’ condition. Regardless, the register should be updated at least once a year as part of an asbestos management review.

Every 12 months is also the frequency at which a refresher of asbestos training will be required, as made clear by Regulation 10 of CAR 2012. Indeed, refresher training may be needed even sooner than this in certain circumstances, such as if work methods change. When you do arrange refresher training for your employees, you should update your records to reflect this.

Who should have access to asbestos records?

A key requirement of the “duty to manage” asbestos under CAR 2012, is the provision of information on the location and condition of ACMs to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them, such as visiting maintenance workers.

Whether you maintain your asbestos register as a paper or electronic record, it is extremely important to make it easily accessible. You might decide to keep paper copies of the register, due to these often being easier to pass on to people who may only be visiting your premises relatively briefly to carry out certain work.

What are the best practices for communicating asbestos information to employees and contractors?

There is only limited use in maintaining accurate and up-to-date asbestos records, if you fail to communicate the critical information from these records to the other people who need to know it, such as employees and contractors.

So, in your capacity as an employer or dutyholder, you should ensure you use a variety of methods for the sharing of asbestos information and updates. These should encompass the likes of regular meetings, briefings, and training sessions.

By combining these methods with the use of appropriate signage and labelling in areas of the building where ACMs have been identified, you can help ensure that both external contractors and your in-house workers are kept well-informed on the asbestos situation at your site.

What are the benefits of maintaining accurate asbestos records?

Taking a proactive, diligent, and meticulous approach to your asbestos recordkeeping will bring you a multitude of benefits as an employer or dutyholder.

It will, of course, be integral to your efforts to optimise workplace safety and minimise health risks arising from ACMs in the given building. At the same time, it will help you achieve regulatory compliance and avoid legal penalties, while facilitating the most efficient all-round management and maintenance of your non-domestic premises.

Finally, by maintaining accurate and up-to-date records on every aspect of your asbestos management ranging from employee training to any removal of ACMs, you can build all-important trust with workers, clients, and regulatory bodies alike.

Conclusion: high-quality asbestos record-keeping is not a mere ‘nice to have’

When you adopt such best practices as keeping your asbestos records accurate and up to date, and making these records easily accessible to relevant parties such as visiting contractors, you can greatly help ensure robust legal compliance and optimal safety for everyone who uses your premises.

Certainly, our experts at Oracle Solutions would encourage any business to review and improve its asbestos management practices – not as a mere “one-off” act, but as a continuous process.

To learn more about our own wide-ranging asbestos services and to ask for a free quote, please contact our team today.

What are the best practices for record-keeping of asbestos materials in the UK? 1

Written by Jess Scott

Jess Scott has been an all-round asbestos consultant since 1996. That’s nearly 3 decades of asbestos knowledge. He spends his time sharing that knowledge with the team at Oracle and with their clients. Jess's goal is, and always has been, to use my expertise in helping people to comply with the law. This legal compliance ultimately helps to protect everyone from the harmful effects of asbestos. Jess has acted as an asbestos expert witness in legal cases and is involved in many asbestos educational activities throughout the UK.