Rights and Responsibilities: Asbestos in Your Commercial Property

If you’re the landlord, the tenant or even the managing agent of any form of commercial property then there is a good chance that you’ll be responsible for managing any asbestos in your property (unless your contract or lease explicitly state otherwise). Although many of us simply see asbestos as a thing of the past, the threats are real. Here’s a guide to your rights, responsibilities and actions. But first, there’s also a reminder of the real dangers of asbestos.

Asbestos: The Silent Killer

The BBC recently ran an article titled ‘The Children Who Played with Asbestos’ and it once more highlighted the perils of a very dangerous substance. Tastefully telling the story of a girl who lived in close proximity to an asbestos plant, it portrays a story of a girl whose life was doomed from an incredibly early age. Now aged 51 with Mesothelioma in her lungs, the girl in question’s only hope is that the rest of her friends who played in the asbestos with her are not consigned to the same fate.

The sad truth is that Mesothelioma takes anywhere between 15-50 years to develop and, once it is contracted, there is no cure. Due to this, many people who have had long term exposure to asbestos see themselves as a ticking time bomb. Around 10-20% of people who have had some form of exposure to asbestos contract the disease and it is currently unknown what factor makes some people more susceptible than others. Her story, however, will not be the last and over the next 5 years, the number of people with Mesothelioma appears set to increase. So, what are your rights and responsibilities if you discover asbestos?

What Are Your Rights and Responsibilities?

Obviously, if you discover any asbestos in your commercial property, it is vital that you act immediately to minimise the risk to you and your employees. Left undisturbed, it is relatively harmless but, once disturbed; the particles will disperse and become a danger to you and your staff, so you should:

  1. If you have a lease or contract, you need to check who is responsible for the asbestos removal. It should be stated in there and, if it isn’t contact your local council for guidance.
  2. Find out where the asbestos is. An external company such as AMS Asbestos Management Services will then carry out a full survey on the property and find exactly where the asbestos is. Never do this yourself as it isn’t safe without training.
  3. Have any material gathered tested and keep a record of any communications or findings.
  4. Carry out a health and safety risk assessment.
  5. Share the information with anyone likely to come into contact with the area
  6. Keep anything containing asbestos in good repair or have it sealed or removed.

Keeping your workforce safe from the dangers of asbestos is vital and, although it may seem like an old fashioned substance, the threats still remain incredibly real. You’re responsible for keeping your staff safe and their health is more important than anything else. For a serious breach of safety legislation, you could face 2 years in prison. Never take the risk and if you suspect that you’ve found asbestos, get the experts in.