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The duty to manage asbestos

The duty to manage asbestos is directed at those who manage non-domestic premises: the people with responsibility for protecting others who work in such premises, or use them in other ways, from the risks to ill health that exposure to asbestos causes.

The revised ACOP L143 ‘Managing and working with asbestos’ contains updated information about the requirements to manage asbestos under regulation 4 of CAR 2012. The information was previously available in the ACOP L127 ‘The management of asbestos in non-domestic premises’ which has now been withdrawn.

What is the duty?

The duty to manage asbestos is contained in regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. It requires the person who has the duty (ie the ‘dutyholder’) to:

  • take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic premises, and if so, its amount, where it is and what condition it is in
  • presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not
  • make, and keep up-to-date, a record of the location and condition of the asbestos- containing materials – or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos
  • assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified
  • prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed
  • take the necessary steps to put the plan into action
  • periodically review and monitor the plan and the arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up-to-date
  • provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them

There is also a requirement on others to co-operate as far as is necessary to allow the dutyholder to comply with the above requirements.

Who has the duty?

The dutyholder is the owner of the non-domestic premises or the person or organisation that has clear responsibility for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises, for example through an explicit agreement such as a tenancy agreement or contract.

The extent of the duty will depend on the nature of that agreement. In a building occupied by one leaseholder, the agreement might be for either the owner or leaseholder to take on the full duty for the whole building; or it might be to share the duty. In a multi-occupied building, the agreement might be that the owner takes on the full duty for the whole building. Or it might be that the duty is shared – for example, the owner takes responsibility for the common parts while the leaseholders take responsibility for the parts they occupy. Sometimes, there might be an agreement to pass the responsibilities to a managing agent.

In some cases, there may be no tenancy agreement or contract. Or, if there is, it may not specify who has responsibility for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises. In these cases, or where the premises are unoccupied, the duty is placed on whoever has control of the premises, or part of the premises. Often this will be the owner.

In public buildings, such as hospitals, schools and similar premises, the identity of the dutyholder will depend on how the responsibility for maintenance of the premises is allocated. For example, for most schools, the dutyholder will be the employer. Who the employer is varies with the type of school. For local authority managed schools, eg community schools and voluntary-controlled schools, the employer is the local authority. For voluntary-aided and foundation schools, it will be the school governors, and for academy and Free Schools, the academy trust will be the employer. For independent and fee-paying schools, it may be the proprietor, governors or trustees. Budgets for repair and maintenance of school buildings are sometimes delegated to schools by a local authority. In such cases, the duty to manage asbestos is shared between schools and the local authority.

Tenancy arrangements and how responsibilities may be allocated or shared
Responsibility for premises Who has the duty to manage under regulation 4?
The owner has sole responsibility for the premises or has sole responsibility for  the common parts of multi-occupied buildings. The owner.
Under a tenancy agreement or contract, tenants (including employers or occupiers) are responsible for alterations, repairs and maintenance. The tenant or tenants in multi-occupancy premises.
Under a tenancy agreement or contract, the owner keeps responsibility for  maintenance and repairs, and the owner has control of access by maintenance workers into the building. The owner.
Under a tenancy agreement or contract, responsibility is shared between several people, eg owners, sub-lessors, occupiers and employers. Each party – for those parts of the premises for which they have maintenance responsibilities. Note that employers occupying the premises also have a general duty of co-operation to comply with the requirement of any health and safety regulations under regulation 11 of the Management of Health and Safety Regulations 1999.
If an owner/leaseholder uses a managing agent. The owner. The managing agent would act on behalf of the owner but does not assume the owners duties in law. The ultimate responsibility remains with the owner.
There is no tenancy agreement or contract. The person in control of the premises.
The premises are unoccupied The person in control of the premises.

What premises are affected?

The duty to manage covers all non-domestic premises. Such premises include all industrial, commercial or public buildings such as factories, warehouses, offices, shops, hospitals and schools.

Non-domestic premises also include those ‘common’ areas of certain domestic premises, such as  purpose-built flats or houses converted into flats. The common areas of these premises include foyers, corridors, lifts and lift-shafts, staircases, roof spaces, gardens, yards, outhouses and garages – but would not include the individual flats themselves. Common areas do not include rooms within a private residence that are shared by more than one household, such as bathrooms, kitchens etc. in shared houses and communal dining rooms and lounges in sheltered accommodation.

Common parts of domestic premises and how the duty to manage applies
Type of residence Type of occupation Rooms or parts Duty to manage applies?
Private house – single dwelling, including bed-sits. Owner occupier All No
Let to single family All No
Occupied by more than one family Private rooms, eg bedroom, living room No
Shared rooms, eg kitchen, bathroom, lavatory No
Rooms let to lodgers Common parts for access and circulation, eg entrance hall, staircase No
Private rooms No
House converted into flats Occupied by more than one family Private rooms No
Common parts for access, circulation and storage, eg entrance hall, staircase, roof space. Yes
Garages, parking spaces Integral to, or linked with residence Private No
Not allocated to any specific person Common parts – for access and circulation. Yes
Block of flats Occupied by more than one family Individual flats No
Common parts, eg foyer, lift, stairs, lobby, boiler and plant room, roof space, communal yard, garden, store rooms, bike shelter, external outbuilding. Yes
Flats over a shop or office, with or without a separate entrance. Occupied by the shop or office owner Private rooms No
Leased separately Private rooms No
Access and circulation areas. Yes
Sheltered accommodation Private rooms No
Common rooms, eg dining room, lounge. No
Work areas, eg kitchen, staff room, laundry. Yes
Common parts, eg foyer, lift, stairs, circulation areas, boiler room, store rooms, roof space, external outbuilding. Yes
Hotel, pubs, guest house, hall of residence, hostel (private and local authority), care home. Includes bed and breakfast, if that is the main purpose Private rooms occupied by the owner. No
Guest accommodation and common parts, (eg foyer, lift, stairs, circulation areas), store rooms, roof space, outbuildings. Yes
Tied cottage/accommodation Leased or rent-free All No
Farm Leased or rent-free Farmhouse No
Farm buildings Yes

How do dutyholders comply?

There are four essential steps:

  1. find out whether the premises contains asbestos, and, if so, where it is and what condition it is in. If in doubt, materials must be presumed to contain asbestos
  2. assess the risk from asbestos present in the premises
  3. make a plan to manage that risk and act on it
  4. provide this information to other employers (eg building contractors) who are likely to disturb any asbestos present, so that they can put in place appropriate control while the work is being done.

Here are some basic principles to consider when managing asbestos:

  • asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed. If it is safely managed and contained, it  doesn’t present a health hazard
  • don’t remove asbestos unnecessarily – removing it can be more dangerous than leaving it in place and managing it
  • not all asbestos materials present the same risk. The measures that need to be taken for controlling the risks from materials such as pipe insulation are different from those needed in relation to asbestos cement
  • if you are unsure about whether certain materials contain asbestos, you should presume they do and treat them as such
  • remember that the duty to manage is all about putting in place the practical steps necessary to protect maintenance workers and others from the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres – it is not about removing all asbestos

Do I need a licensed contractor to remove/work on asbestos in my premises?

If ACMs need to be sealed, encapsulated or removed, remember you will need to .employ a licensed contractor if the materials are high risk (eg pipe insulation and asbestos insulating panels). If the materials are lower risk (eg asbestos cement sheets and roofing) then an unlicensed but competent contractor may carry out this work. Further details on non-licensed work with asbestos is available online.

Further information

If you can’t find an what you are looking for you can always drop us a message and we will be happy to answer them for you.

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