Who is responsible for asbestos duties in derelict buildings?

 By Kathy Cooke.  7th Febuary 2014

Asbestos was used as an insulating material in many commercial and domestic properties until the late 1990's when the UK banned any new asbestos use. It may therefore still be found in unused or derelict properties today and may cause a health risk unless the owner ensures that the appropriate procedures are in place.

asbestos derelict building

If you are in business you will no doubt be aware of the myriad of health and safety laws that run alongside your responsibilities as a business owner.

Are you aware of your obligation as a business owner when it comes to asbestos?

There is some very good advice on the HSE website for business owners and employers detailing your asbestos duties and the procedures to follow to ensure you are operating within the law.

A must is to obtain an asbestos survey so you are aware of any asbestos present in your building(s) and can then advise others who may come into contact with it.There is a duty to manage for all non domestic premises including all industrial, commercial and public buildings and therefore applies to directors, managers, landlords, tenants and agents.

Did you know that even if a building is unused, unoccupied or derelict, asbestos duties are still the responsibility of the person who has control of the building? Owners of derelict or vacant premises and warehouses also need an asbestos survey ensuring safety of any demolition workers in the future or as in the example below fire-fighters and surrounding community.

At the end of last month about 30 fire-fighters dealt with a blaze at the derelict Turner and Newall asbestos mill on Rooley Moor Road in Rochdale. Fortunately the fire was contained and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service said there was limited risk of asbestos being airborne as a result of the fire but residents were told to keep doors and windows closed as a precaution during the blaze.

Possible Penalties for Business Owners Who Do Not Follow Asbestos Obligations

If asbestos regulations are not followed correctly, it is probable that business owners will be proscecuted given the seriousness of future health problems linked with asbestos inhalation. Just last week, two company directors received suspended sentences of 6 months for dumping asbestos waste at a former factory site between August 2008 and October 2012.

The derelict site undergoing demolition was found to be insecure and unauthorised people were able to enter it causing further damage and spread of the dumped asbestos waste. These trespassers could have inhaled or ingested the loose asbestos fibres and have future health risks.

The company directors had been advised by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) that it was illegal to store such asbestos waste on the site. On 09.02.11 officers from the HSE visited the site and suspended work due to the presence of asbestos materials which require a licence.

Had correct asbestos procedures been followed, prosecution would not have been necessary.

Be assured if, as landlord, tenant or managing agent of a commercial property, - including unused or derelict buildings - you do not have a plan to deal with asbestos or you fail to put your plan in action, you can face serious penalties; including imprisonment.

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Kathy Cooke

Kathy Cooke   MA. BSc

Cancer consultant and advisor

Kathy has worked in the cancer field for over 30 years. She was course leader for the MSc in Radiotherapy and Oncology at University of Hertfordshire. Then pre-treatment radiotherapy manager at the Cromwell Hospital in London and Partnership Quality Lead for Macmillan Cancer Support..   Read more >

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