Recognising the potential dangers of asbestos, leads owners to responsibly address any potential concerns about the building products used in the construction of their properties. Regulation 4 Duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises (CAR2012) requires dutyholders to ensure that “the risk of anyone being exposed to these materials is assessed”. This type of risk assessment is often referred to as a priority risk assessment.
An asbestos survey report will identify the material risk. The material risk provides information on how readily the material will release airborne asbestos fibres should it be disturbed. The material risk score can range from very low to high. However it does not automatically follow that those materials assigned the highest score in the material assessment will be the materials that should be given priority for remedial action.
Management priority must be determined by carrying out a risk assessment, which will also take into account additional factors such as:
- Maintenance activity
- Occupant activity
- Likelihood of disturbance
- Human exposure potential
These additional factors represent the information required to formulate the required priority risk assessments.
The priority assessment looks at the likelihood of someone disturbing the ACM’s. The duty holder is the only person who can complete these assessments accurately.
The priority risk assessment can only be carried out with detailed knowledge of all the listed factors. Although a surveyor may have some of the information which will contribute to the risk assessment and may be part of an assessment team, the duty holder is required to make the risk assessment, using the information given in the survey report and detailed knowledge of the activities carried out within the premises. These priority risk assessments will form the basis of the management plan, so it is important that they are accurate.
The following sections describe the basic considerations to be taken into account for each of the listed factors.
Maintenance Activity – The first and most important factor, which must be taken into consideration, is the level of maintenance activity likely to be taking place in an area. Maintenance trades such as plumbers and electricians are the group who the ‘Duty to Manage’ is primarily trying to protect. There are two types of maintenance activity, planned and unplanned.
Planned work can be assessed and carried out using procedures and controls to reduce exposure to asbestos. Unplanned work requires the situation to be dealt with as found and the controls that can be applied may be more limited.
The frequency of maintenance activities also need to be taken into account in deciding what management action is appropriate.
Occupant Activity – The activities carried out in an area will have an impact on the risk assessment. When carrying out a risk assessment the main type of use of an area and the activities taking place within it should be taken into account.
For example a little used storeroom, or an attic, will rarely be accessed and so any asbestos is unlikely to be disturbed. At the other end of the scale, in a warehouse lined with asbestos insulating board panels, with frequent vehicular movements, the potential for disturbance of ACMs is reasonably high and this would be a significant factor in the risk assessment.
As well as the normal everyday activities taking place in an area, any secondary activities will need to be taken into account. These may be activities such as general cleaning.
Likelihood of Disturbance – The two factors that will determine the likelihood of disturbance are the extent or amount of the ACM and its accessibility / vulnerability.
For example, asbestos soffits outdoors are generally inaccessible without the use of ladders or scaffolding, so are unlikely to be disturbed. The asbestos cement roof of a school classroom is also unlikely to be disturbed, but its extent would need to be taken into account in any risk assessment. However, if the same school classroom had asbestos panels on the walls they would be much more likely to be disturbed by student / chair/ table movements.
Human Exposure Potential – The human exposure potential depends on three factors:
- The number of occupants of an area
- The frequency of use of the area
- The average time each area is in use
For example, a boiler room is likely to be unoccupied, but may be visited daily for a few minutes. The potential for exposure is much less than say in an office lined with asbestos insulating board panelling, which is occupied daily for six hours by fifteen employees.
Check out our Asbestos Priority Risk Assessment Form
We’ve put together this form to help duty holders complete their priority risk assessments. With this form you can print or save the forms for your own records.
Alternatively if you need any assistance with completing these assessments please contact us today!