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April 28, 2008

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Just ask- Asbestos

Question: An assessment has been carried out as to the condition of asbestos within our premises and it has been decided to leave the asbestos in place. What duties do we have to monitor this asbestos?

Answer: Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, the duty-holder must prepare a written plan identifying the areas of the premises concerned and the measures necessary for managing the asbestos risk. These measures can include adequate means for monitoring the condition of any asbestos, or suspected asbestos, that is to remain in place.

Asbestos-containing materials (ACM) that are in good condition, sealed and/or repaired, and are unlikely to be disturbed, may be left in place. Often this is a safer option than removal, which will clearly result in the ACM being disturbed. It is essential that the responsible person continues to minimise employees’ and other persons’ exposure to asbestos from damaged and deteriorated asbestos-containing material.

As such, if left in place, the condition of the ACM will have to be monitored regularly, and the results recorded. A useful way of monitoring the condition of ACM is to take photographs, which can be used to compare the condition over time. When the condition of the ACM starts to deteriorate, remedial action can be taken.

The time period between monitoring will vary depending on the type of ACM, its location, and the activities in the area concerned. But it would not be expected to be more than 12 months. Asbestos-containing materials in remote locations with little or no routine activity can be inspected infrequently (e.g. asbestos insulating board ceilings in remote, unoccupied buildings).

However, materials in locations where there is a lot of activity will need more frequent monitoring (e.g. asbestos insulating board panels on the walls of a constantly used corridor may need inspecting once a month).

Monitoring would involve a visual inspection – looking for signs of disturbance, scratches, broken edges, cracked or peeling paint, and debris. Where deterioration has occurred, a recommendation on what remedial action to take would need to be made. This may be a case of resealing the surface of the ACM, but if there is evidence that the ACM is being disturbed on a frequent basis, the decision may be made to remove the panel, or at least protect it by putting up a suitable barrier after clearing any visible debris. The reason for the disturbance may also need investigating. As well as protecting the ACM, consideration must also be given to methods to prevent the disturbance in the first place.

In addition, employees must also be encouraged to report any new damage to ACMs that they become aware of. The management plan itself should be reviewed periodically to make sure that it is still preventing uncontrolled work on ACMs. This periodic review of the management plan should typically be done once every six months or when there is significant change to the structure of the organisation, or to the personnel responsible for its implementation.

Every care is taken in the preparation of these questions and answers, which are supplied by Croner Consulting, a trading division of WoltersKluwer(UK) Ltd. Any advice or guidance contained herein is not to be taken as the official advice or guidance of IOSH or SHP/UBM. The information is correct at the time the answer was formulated and posted. However, the answers given can only address the general principles involved. Professional advice must be sought on any specific query or problem your business has relating to any issue or area raised.

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