Waltham Forest council pleaded guilty to charges under the Health and Safety at Work Act and the Control of Asbestos regulations.
The council is reported to have stated that it “should have done more in the past” to manage safety. According to a BBC report a spokesperson for Waltham Forest council said: “This issue dates back to 2002, and we completely accept that the council should have done more in the past to manage the health and safety of our buildings. We accepted responsibility at court.
“In 2012 a fresh asbestos survey indicated the problem, and we have been working with the Health and Safety Executive to make sure that nothing like this happens in the future.”
Andrew Johnson, Asbestos Consultant at HBE Risk Management commented “Properties that were constructed before the year 2000 have a high probability of containing Asbestos. Unless your organisation has a Risk Assessment report confirming that Asbestos is NOT present, then as the property manager, you must assume that your building contains Asbestos and undertake a risk assessment.
If the risk assessment indicates the presence of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs), then you have a duty of care towards employees and visitors to your building. This is where many organisations, including some in the public sector, have fallen foul of the law.”
Legislation states that regular inspections of identified ACMs must be undertaken as a part of an Asbestos Management plan. The purpose of managing asbestos in buildings is to prevent or, where this is not reasonably practicable, minimise exposure for these groups of workers and other people in the premises.
As ACMs had been confirmed as present in this case, the requirements are placed on the Council, the dutyholders, who’s responsibility was to:
- assess and monitor the condition of ACMs and presumed ACMs;
- assess the risk of exposure from ACMs and presumed ACMs and prepare a written plan of the actions and measures necessary to manage the risk (ie the ‘asbestos management plan’); and
- take steps to see that these actions are carried out.
This was where the Council responsible Person failed in their duties.
If you’re unsure about whether your building is compliant, contact your local HBE Asbestos team who will be happy to help.