What is an Asbestos Register? And Why Do You Need One?
With the importation and use of asbestos in the UK not having been banned until 1999, the potentially lethal substance was widely used in this country for almost all of the 20th century.
As a consequence, there are great numbers of buildings up and down the country that continue to contain asbestos, and there is a need for that asbestos to be responsibly managed to help ensure it does not pose a risk to occupants’ health.
This brings us onto the subject of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, or CAR 2012, which sets out that those responsible for the maintenance of non-domestic premises have a duty to manage the asbestos that might be present in these buildings.
This “duty” has been put in place to help ensure those using the site do not encounter the asbestos. Such contact could bring the risk of them disturbing the material, with the danger this poses of them potentially breathing in the released fibres.
What is an asbestos register, and what is its purpose?
The short answer to the question “what is an asbestos register?” is that it is a document that shows the results of an asbestos survey undertaken on a building.
The given building’s asbestos register should therefore contain details on all the asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that are present on the premises, including their location, amount, and condition.
The idea behind an asbestos register is that it contains crucial information that will help better ensure the safety of everyone who uses the building. For example, it is a document that can be referred to when decisions need to be made about installation, maintenance and demolition works, to help prevent asbestos exposure from occurring.
Who is responsible for the asbestos register?
Responsibility for the asbestos register lies with the person who has the “duty to manage” the asbestos in the given non-domestic premises, as outlined by regulation 4 of CAR 2012.
To be more specific, the regulation states that “the dutyholder” is:
- Every person who has, by virtue of a contract or tenancy, an obligation of any extent in relation to the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises or any means of access or egress to or from those premises; or
- In relation to any part of non-domestic premises where there is no such contract or tenancy, every person who has, to any extent, control of that part of those non-domestic premises or any means of access or egress to or from those premises,
And where there is more than one such dutyholder, the relative contribution to be made by each such person in complying with the requirements of this regulation will be determined by the nature and extent of the maintenance and repair obligation owed by that person.
CAR 2012 outlines a series of responsibilities that the “dutyholder” has in relation to the given building.
Those requirements include taking reasonable steps to determine whether there are ACMs in the non-domestic premises – and if there is, to ascertain the location, amount, and condition of those ACMs.
It is also expected that the dutyholder will make a record of the location and condition of the materials on-site that contain asbestos – or materials that are presumed to contain asbestos – and keep this record up to date.
You might be wondering about that word, “presumed”; the “duty to manage” includes presuming that materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not.
If you are the dutyholder for a particular site, you will also be required to assess the risk of anyone being exposed to asbestos fibres on the basis of the information you have identified about ACMs on your site. Furthermore, you will need to set out a detailed plan on how you will manage the risks that these materials present, followed by taking the necessary steps to put that plan into action.
It will also be necessary to provide information on your on-site ACMs’ location and condition to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb those materials – for example, a construction or demolition worker who you might have asked to work on your premises.
We’re mentioning all these duties, because the asbestos survey and subsequent asbestos register will provide a strong foundation for all of them, helping to ensure you fulfil your both legal and moral responsibilities to keep people safe from asbestos.
What should an asbestos register contain?
The asbestos register for a given building should contain a comprehensive list of all the ACMs found in that building. Alongside this, details should be included on what condition those ACMs are in, which is something that can affect the risk of the fibres being inhaled. Information should be given, too, on the quantity of materials present.
When putting together your own asbestos register, you might choose to convey the above information in the form of a table, or you could set out a plan of the premises, with clear labelling of all the ACMs.
Finally, it is also crucial that you state in the register who will be responsible for managing the ACMs on-site.
Whatever format you use for your asbestos register, it can be a good idea to leave scope for further commentary on the ACMs you find on your site, encompassing such details as the type of asbestos if known, and how easy the ACMs are to access. After all, such information could make a difference to the health risk that such materials pose.
Is it a legal requirement to have an asbestos register?
Yes, the dutyholder for the given non-domestic building – as defined by CAR 2012 – is legally obliged to have an asbestos register in place for the premises. The duty that the dutyholder has to manage asbestos on their site is a legal one, so if you have this duty, you mustn’t ignore it.
As we stated above, there are various responsibilities that the dutyholder has, as part of the effective overall management of a building’s asbestos risk. The necessary procedures include determining whether there is asbestos on the given premises, alongside details of its condition and location.
The best way to gather all of these details, is to arrange for a full asbestos survey of the building to be carried out. The information that you accumulate from this process can then be kept in the asbestos register, which should cover both known ACMs and materials that are presumed to contain asbestos.
How often should an asbestos register be updated?
Again as referenced above, the duties that a dutyholder has to manage asbestos on their site include not only making a record of the on-site ACMs in the first place, but also keeping that record up to date.
So, you will need to put in place formal arrangements for regularly inspecting the asbestos on your site and updating the asbestos register with any new information.
The exact interval between checks of your on-site ACMs will depend on their condition, location, and type of material. But as a general rule, it is advisable to have your premises’ asbestos materials looked at every six to 12 months.
Remember that an asbestos register isn’t a document that you should simply ‘make and leave’. After all, there is also a need to have an asbestos management or action plan in place, setting out what actions you will actually take in response to any asbestos found.
Arranging for regular inspections of your site’s ACMs will feed into the asbestos management plan, by helping to ensure it is based on up-to-date information.
Putting together and then maintaining an asbestos register should be a key part of the proactive, not merely reactive, management of asbestos on your premises.
So, you should make sure you are regularly walking around your building, checking the condition of any ACMs that you have left in place on your site, and updating the register if necessary – for example, if there is any evidence that those materials have been damaged or disturbed since you last looked at them.
It isn’t only “negative” changes to the risk that should lead you to make changes to the asbestos register and action plan to reflect this; you should do the same if any steps are taken that could significantly reduce the risk of asbestos exposure, such as the removal of some ACMs.
You will need to keep looking again at the arrangements in your asbestos action plan, to consider whether they are working effectively, and whether changes to the plan will be required.
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