Health & Safety Executive HSEWaltham Forest council is being prosecuted by the HSE following an investigation into the management of asbestos at the Town Hall.

The HSE is prosecuting the authority over alleged breaches of the Health & Safety at Work Act and the Control of Asbestos Regulations relating to the discovery of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in a basement room at the Forest Road building. Council Staff had access to this basement room between 1984 and 2012. In 2012, it was revealed the authority knew about the presence of asbestos, but did not stop staff from accessing the building, claiming that the asbestos levels were “within Health and Safety Executive guidelines”.

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 ACM’s then you have a duty of care towards employees and visitors to your building. This is where many organisations, including 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.

To then manage the risk from ACMs, the dutyholder will need to:

  • keep and maintain an up-to-date record of the location, condition, maintenance and removal of all ACMs on the premises;
  • repair, seal or remove ACMs if there is a risk of exposure due to their condition or location;
  • maintain ACMs in a good state of repair and regularly monitor their condition;
  • inform anyone who is liable to disturb the ACMs about their location and condition;
  • have arrangements and procedures in place so that work which may disturb the ACMs complies with the control of Asbestos regulations (CAR 2012);
  • review the plan at regular intervals and make changes if circumstances change.

If you’re unsure about whether your building is compliant, email us at enquiries@hberm.coom, where we will be happy to help.