Control of Asbestos Regulations Obligations for Commercial Landlords - What You Need to Know

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Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations, there are specific obligations for commercial landlords which must be undertaken. Compliance is not optional - they are legal mandates with very heavy fines for non-compliance. 

With over 300,000 non-domestic properties continuing to contain asbestos, the risk is as prevalent as it’s ever been, and commercial property owners and landlords need to know how to manage it effectively. 

There is a lot of information online about what the obligations for commercial landlords are, for example the Approved Codes of Practice (ACOPs) and guidance on the HSE websites which explain the legislation in full. 

In this article however we will look at what the obligations are and explain how you can comply with them in an easy-to-absorb format. 

Obligations for Commercial Landlords: Explained

  1. If you lease the building, or are a tenant, find out who is responsible for asbestos. 

The contract under which the building is leased will stipulate who is responsible for managing asbestos risk - this may be the property owner, the tenant, or the managing agent. This is a logical point to start at as you will need to know whether to progress to the other duties set out within the regulations. 

As you can imagine, there is little sense in engaging with compliance in the other obligations if it is not your responsibility; it is useful however to understand what the duties are for reference should the need arise. 

  1. Find out where the asbestos is.

The regulations stipulate that a suitable and sufficient assessment of the property is carried out in order to determine where the asbestos is, the type, and the risk to health and safety it poses throughout normal operations of the property. 

You don’t need a license to carry this out, so you could do it yourself - however remember that the survey must be ‘suitable and sufficient’. This means that whoever completes the assessment must be competent to do so. This person must have the skills necessary to carry out the task, have appropriate knowledge of the topic, the right attitude toward the task, (they must take it seriously), have relevant training and qualifications and, finally, experience in carrying out these assessments. 

Considering the above, it’s usually far easier to engage with a professional surveyor who will carry out the assessment for you and provide you with a report of their findings which will enable you to complete your Health and Safety Risk Assessment (see below). Click here to arrange a survey

  1. Have the material analysed and keep a record of what you find.

The third of the obligations for commercial landlords is that any Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) or potential ACM must be analysed to determine the type of asbestos present within the property you are responsible for. Briefly, the procedure for this is to carefully wet the sample, bag it in a self-sealing polythene bag, then bag it again, label it and send it to a UKAS certified laboratory for analysis. Whenever collecting a sample, be wary of the ground conditions - you don’t want to disturb any asbestos that may be on the ground, and definitely don’t want to tread on it as this may cause fibres to be released. 

Once received, the results of this analysis can be used in your Health and Safety Risk Assessment. The results, along with your survey report and health and safety risk assessment should be retained in an ‘Asbestos file’ either electronically or in hard copy and be easily retrieved from or at the site which it pertains to - if you are audited or have a spot check carried out by the HSE or Local Authority, you may need to demonstrate this. Remember, you may be visited for reasons other than your fulfilment of landlord obligations- however, the HSE or LA enjoy ‘taking a look around’ when on site so it is worth being prepared. 

  1. Carry out a health and safety risk assessment.

All property owners have a duty to carry out a health and safety risk assessment; employers must also do this under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974- so complying with your obligations for commercial landlords will also help you to achieve compliance with other regulations too. 

When carrying out your risk assessment, you must consider:

  • The people at risk - both typical (day to day occupants/employees) as well as vulnerable groups such as young persons, the elderly, new or expectant mothers, etc. 
  • The environment - for example the building itself as well as the natural surroundings or your premises
  • The activities being carried out under normal circumstances - this will vary depending on the type of commercial property
  • The asbestos present, and the potential risk it presents
  • Control measures and actions that will help mitigate the identified risks
  • The hierarchy of control - when defining controls seek to eliminate the risk, followed by reducing it, isolating people from it, control exposures, use PPE, and finally use procedural controls to maintain discipline in sustaining the controls. 

The asbestos survey report will help you to determine how the above will be affected by any asbestos present and will give pointers for actions and control measures. 

Similarly, the laboratory analysis will provide valuable insight into the types and extent of risk that occupants may be exposed to. 

  1. Share the information with anyone likely to come into contact with the area, such as builders.

Once you have completed the risk assessment and identified suitable controls, it must be communicated to any occupants of the building, as well as people who may be directly affected by the findings and control measures, for example maintenance managers, engineers, etc. 

The information should be available to anyone who wishes to see it. 

The workplace’s safety culture can be boosted too by general communication to occupants/employees to let them know that the assessment has been carried out and their personal health and safety is, therefore, being protected. 

It may be prudent to share your Asbestos file/risk assessment with your local Emergency Services- they will be happy to confirm for you should you make contact with them.  

  1. Keep anything containing asbestos in good repair or have it sealed or removed.

The risk assessment may well identify control measures that will either eliminate the risk of exposure to asbestos, or significantly reduce the likelihood. These measures will include keeping the asbestos in good repair, (protecting it from degradation/damage, for example preventing it being knocked or having objects fall onto it) sealing it (to prevent fibre release), or even removal, if the type of asbestos presents a sufficient level of risk. 

Because removal can present a greater level of risk due to disturbance of the asbestos fibres, it is often preferential to leave the asbestos in situ and manage it that way. 

Obligations for Commercial Landlords - In Summary

As you have no doubt gathered there are actually relatively few obligations for commercial landlords, and they’re easy to grasp.  However, the penalties for non-compliance are severe. To see how we can help you fulfil your obligations for commercial landlords, get in contact now