All employers have a duty to provide a safe place of work, both for their employees, but also others (visitors, the general public, etc). S. 2 of HSWA 1974.

In practical terms, this entails making someone responsible for ensuring that the premises are “safe”. The common term in asbestos for that person is the dutyholder.

To begin to make the premises “safe”, the dutyholder has to have some idea about whether there are any risks present on their premises. With regard to asbestos, a good starting point is to have an asbestos survey done.

Once an asbestos survey has been carried out, the dutyholder can then begin to make and implement plans and systems to ensure the ongoing safety of the occupants, while they are on the premises. In short, they will be managing their risk. This is usually achieved by producing an asbestos management plan.

The asbestos management plan is a formal record of the state of all known asbestos on a site, with both control measures to eliminate or reduce the risk from each occurrence, and perhaps a longer-term plan to remove the risk altogether, by having the asbestos removed in a properly-controlled manner.

Being able to demonstrate that you know and can quantify your risks with regard to asbestos could reduce current and future costs and liabilities.

Ultimately, by removing the asbestos from a premises, you could increase its value (by removing the liability associated with its presence).

If you are the duty holder for a commercial property and you do not have an asbestos survey, you are liable to prosecution.

Failure to comply with the new asbestos regulations may also mean that a prohibition notice is placed on your buildings - effectively closing you down until your workplace is confirmed safe.

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