The Net Zero Carbon Initiative and the possible complications of asbestos
With the rollout of the Net Zero Carbon initiative it is certainly worthwhile raising the topic of asbestos... isn't it? I know what you're thinking, surely their not flogging that old horse again!! isn't it time that they put the poor thing out to pasture!?
With Net Zero Carbon, there is a massive potential to disturb the fabric of millions of properties across the UK over the next 20+ years with the replacing of boilers, electricity meters, gas meters, installing PV panels, new and developing technology, re-insulation works of loft spaces, etc, as such. I feel that this is the right time to highlight and remind people of the risks of asbestos and the potential of exposure. There are many who believe that asbestos wont and doesn't play a part in the installation works needed for Net Zero Carbon, after all we haven't used asbestos in construction for decades.
Although the use of asbestos was banned in the UK back in 1999, many buildings built up to this time had asbestos materials used within and on them, it was used in decorative finishes, as and insulation product, for fire proofing, in mastics and plastic, flooring, general construction materials, roofing, soffits, water storage, in fact it can be literally anywhere.
When we look at the Net Zero Carbon initiative, what needs serious consideration is what is being installed, how it will be fixed in place, what route will cables and pipework run, what needs to be replaced, what improvements are being carried out and how can this work affect the building being worked on.
One of main areas of concern for asbestos exposure in the Net Zero Carbon development actually stems from the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR12) itself. In particular Regulation 4, the Duty to Manage. This regulation requires the identification and management of asbestos, however this is qualified as being applied to "non-domestic premises". Admittedly, there will be many non-domestic premises owners who embrace and commit to the Net Zero Carbon initiative, but there are also many more domestic premises out there with asbestos in them whose owners will be as equally committed and will be as eager to have new zero carbon boilers, more efficient insulation, photovoltaic panels installed, smart meters etc all of which may potentially disturb the fabric of the building. Does the non-domestic requirement mean that asbestos isn't an issue in domestic premises, in peoples homes? On the contrary, where works on domestic premises are concerned, we need to be diligent, pro-active and have thorough, detailed and reliable assessments carried out that look at how this work will progress, who will be carrying it out and what do those workers, planners and designers know of asbestos.
Although Reg. 4 is important, as are all of the regulations in CAR12, there is one particular regulations that also requires a mention in this brief editorial, one that needs to be strictly observed, not only to ensure the safety and health of the workers, but also that of the premises occupiers, namely Regulation 5. This regulation is crucial when it comes to assessing work on older, pre 2000 premises. Reg 5 is clear, in that it states, " An employer must not undertake work in demolition, maintenance, or any other work which exposes or is liable to expose employees of that employer to asbestos in respect of any premises unless either— that employer has carried out a suitable and sufficient assessment as to whether asbestos, is present or is liable to be present in those premises; or if there is doubt as to whether asbestos is present in those premises that employer... assumes that asbestos is present"*, let just let that sink in for a moment, so any work, in respect to any premises must first be assessed to ensure there is no potential risk of exposure to asbestos , that assessment must be suitable and sufficient and above all, thorough and if your not sure, then you must assume that asbestos is present.
Where asbestos is proven, or presumed, strict controls, training, procedures etc. must be in place to allow that work to be carried out safely, without risk. There are over 5000 deaths every year in the UK due to past exposure to asbestos, only through strict observation of the regulations, clear and precise information, training, robust surveys and reliable assessments can we start to see a reduction and the eventual eradication of the vile diseases associated with exposure to asbestos.
BIACS are here to help, we provide free, impartial advice. We offer training solutions to help protect works, clients and members of the public, we undertake surveys, assist in the evaluation and creation of risk assessments and help with the safe and compliant management of asbestos.
Be safe, know what you're dealing with, don't disturb asbestos.
*excerpt form the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012