Due to its remarkable physical properties, asbestos was used widely in construction before it was banned in 1999 and can, therefore, be found in all types of building built before the year 2000. These days the serious health impacts that exposure to asbestos can cause are well known and mean that an asbestos management plan is a crucial part of any employer’s health and safety arsenal.
In this article, we will look into the many reasons why you, as an employer, will need to create and implement an asbestos management plan and how you can do this.
There are several reasons why you should put together an asbestos management plan. These can be split into legal, ethical/moral, and strategic categories.
Firstly, there’s the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (‘the 1974 Act’), which places a multitude of duties upon employers to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of their employees, as well as non-employees who may be affected by the activities carried out by the employer.
The 1974 Act is underpinned by legislation (legal statutes) such as The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR) and, crucially here, in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
One way or another, all of the aforementioned legal statutes require an employer to identify and manage any risks to the safety, health, and welfare of their employees and the public where they may be affected by their activities.
As asbestos is such a savagely dangerous substance, it requires more than a simple risk assessment on a single sheet of A4 paper to adequately control the risk and meet the requirements of the law. To manage the risk properly requires a survey of your premises and equipment to identify possible asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), as well as laboratory analysis of samples taken from the possible ACMs, a survey report, and an analysis of the asbestos risk, based on these findings.
Off the back of these, you’ll then be able to create procedures and protocols that will ensure the safety of your employees and the public, keeping them well away from the risk or minimising the likelihood of exposure to the absolute minimum (‘as low as is reasonably practicable’).
These procedures and protocols become your asbestos management plan.
An additional and crucial part of your asbestos management plan is to determine how the contents of it will be communicated to not only your employees but also contractors, visitors to the premises, or even passers-by, for example, if you are undertaking involved demolition of old buildings next to, or nearby, public thoroughfares.
Furthermore, your asbestos management plan should be reviewed whenever circumstances that may affect the asbestos risk change - for example, if you purchase an additional older building, if you are doing refurbishment or remedial work, if you are demolishing a building, etc.
Doing all of the above satisfies your legal requirements to assess, control, manage, and monitor the risk of asbestos.
Failure to do the above can and will result in heavy fines (the HSE love to find things wrong so that they can charge a ‘fee for intervention’ even if there’s nothing wrong with your asbestos management) and in some cases, prison time for company directors if serious breaches of the law occur, particularly if due to deliberate acts of neglect of duty.
So, ask yourself… pay tens of thousands in fines or even go to prison… or spend some time controlling the asbestos risk… which would you prefer?
These days, everyone knows the severity of exposure to asbestos (to one extent or another). The cancers that can result are often un-curable and cause a painful and drawn-out death.
The word ‘asbestos’ is synonymous with ageing buildings, inadequately researched products, manufacturers ignoring the truth about the dangers of the lethal substance, and the early deaths of thousands of workers every year.
So, with this in mind, could you stand by and let your workers potentially breathe this stuff in? Could you turn a blind eye and say that profits and deadlines are more important than the safety of the public around your demolition site?
Unless you’re a particularly cold-hearted individual, the answer ought to be no.
Producing an asbestos management plan, and implementing it, will give you the peace of mind that you’re looking after your workforce and that they aren’t at risk.
Believe it or not, there can actually be advantages to creating an asbestos management plan beyond avoiding prison and being able to sleep at night.
Health And Safety Culture
When your employees see that you’re taking steps to ensure their safety, they’ll feel looked after and valued. This can lead to an improved health and safety mindset, where employees feel more able to voice concerns and let management know about potential hazards or near misses within the workplace. It can also lead to operational improvements, which will result in increased productivity or efficiency.
You may also see a boost in morale once your employees know that you’re looking out for them - again, leading to increased productivity and a more compliant workforce.
Public Image and Reputation
If you’re carrying out work in a public setting, for example, refurbishing an old shopping centre, and are visibly controlling the asbestos risks, this will inevitably raise your profile as a conscientious employer with strong moral values.
When project managers are on the lookout for a contractor, they may well consider you over your competition if they’re aware that you have a positive attitude towards health and safety. Indeed, company health and safety statistics and proof of your measures to reduce accidents and incidents may well be requested as part of a tendering process.
The other side of this, of course, is to stay out of the press for negative reasons. If you’ve been identified and outed as an irresponsible employer, your reputation will immediately and often irreparably be damaged; no one wants to have a reckless contractor on site who acts like a cowboy.
This loss of business is often just as costly as the fines that you’ll have to pay for lack of compliance.
As you’ll now know the reasons for creating an asbestos management plan extend well beyond the avoidance of legal penalties.
If creating an asbestos management plan seems beyond your abilities - or you just want a little guidance - we’re here to help. Get in touch today and we’ll get you started right away.