Asbestos is a mineral that was widely used in a variety of building materials until it was banned in the UK in 1999. It was most widely used between 1950 and mid-1980 but could be present in buildings that were completed up to 2000. Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral whose properties make it ideal for insulation and fireproofing. It can be found in a variety of places such as decorative finishes, tiles, insulation of pipes, boilers, and cupboards, roofing materials and external water pipes.
What is the risk?
The issue with asbestos occurs when the fibres become airborne, so if the material is kept in good condition it should not pose a risk. If the material is broken or damage whilst in situ or during removal these fibres can become airborne and it can causes a health risk as they can be inhaled. Therefore the handling and disposal of asbestos-containing materials should be dealt with in accordance with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidelines.
Whose is responsible if you live in a flat?
If you live in a flat the responsibility of managing asbestos varies depending on where it is located. If there are no communal areas, such as halls and stairs, then the responsibility solely sits with the owner. However, if the flat has communal areas then the person or company managing the flats have a legal duty under the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012) to complete an asbestos report. This report will outline where asbestos is located, its condition, the risk, and any actions to manage this. If work is being undertaken where asbestos is present then the contractors must be trained in handling asbestos and follow the guidance from the HSE.
If you find asbestos inside your flat then it is the responsibility of the flat owner to deal with the asbestos, whether that is you or a landlord.
What should I do if I find asbestos?
If you believe there are asbestos materials in your flat and it is intact then it should be relatively safe. If it is in a communal area contact your managing agent. If you are planning to carry out maintenance or repair work in your flat where the suspected asbestos is then you should consult a professional first to ascertain the risk.
It is advisable to have an asbestos survey completed on your flat. This will determine if asbestos is present, complete a risk assessment and state whether a licensed contractor is required to carry out the removal. The survey would typically include sampling and analysis to determine the presence of asbestos.
Some asbestos-containing materials; like asbestos sprayed coated materials, insulation, lagging and insulation board; are classed as more dangerous and should be removed only by a person with a HSE license.
When selecting someone to remove the asbestos ensure that they have the appropriate licenses where necessary. If you going to remove the asbestos yourself ensure it is non-licensed removal, ensure that you are competently trained and have the appropriate information and instructions.