Duty of care

Building owners have a responsibility to manage the risk from asbestos in their premises. Developing the asbestos plan for Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, provides an overview of typical considerations

The owner or the person responsible for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises has a duty to manage asbestos risk under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Educational buildings are no exception. At Fitzwilliam College, University of Cambridge, the maintenance manager has the authority to manage and, as such, is responsible for the management of asbestos on-site. With the majority of the college’s buildings constructed between 1960 and 2000 (before the ban of asbestos use in 1999), the college is required by law to have a record of known – or presumed – asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), their current condition and a plan for how those materials are managed.

Audit of information and plan

The first step in meeting legal requirements was to complete an audit and verification of existing asbestos information, processes and procedures. The information reviewed was in the form of management surveys, refurbishment surveys, asbestos removal certificates and sporadic data ranging from 30 years ago to almost the present day. The audit involved interviews with key stakeholders to identify roles and responsibilities, the review of old reports against current properties to determine on-going accuracy and the discussion of procedures, knowledge and information.

Taking the result of the audit into account, a plan and a realistic timeline for compliance was drawn up, based on risk, budget, accessibility and stakeholder requirements. The highest priority activities were completed first, and included bespoke asbestos awareness training for appropriate teams, asbestos management surveys, re-inspection surveys to higher-risk properties, the development of internal permits to work and the installation of a refurbishment survey request system prior to any intrusive works being completed.

One key finding from the audit was that the relevant data was held within multiple files across a number of offices, with some legacy data missing or incomplete. To address this, it was agreed that an online asbestos management system would provide extensive benefits and should be introduced. In this case SOCOTEC’s MiPortal was chosen to provide a centralised database that tracked any logins, downloads or changes to documentation – specifically to help meet requirements under CAR Regulation 10. This ensures that when a building contractor arrives to complete maintenance works, the college can supply the contractor with full and accurate asbestos records.

The college’s staff also received appropriate training. For example, plumbers on-site were made aware of potential asbestos that could be located in bathrooms and other relevant areas. Where maintenance staff could potentially disturb low-risk ACMs, they had non-licensable work with asbestos training, and gardeners and groundskeepers had asbestos in soils awareness training.

A single surveyor was used across the project to ensure a consistent approach, which brought additional benefits. Not only were the college staff familiar with seeing the same person on-site, the surveyor developed a knowledge and understanding of the buildings and varying stakeholder requirements to provide an efficient, cost-effective service.

With the right measures in place, the college has peace of mind that it has the processes and procedures needed to manage and control the presence of asbestos within its buildings to safeguard staff, students and contractors, and ensure legal compliance.    

SOCOTEC has worked with Fitzwilliam for nearly three years to help the college ensure that it is fully compliant in its management of asbestos. Visit socotec.co.uk/services/asbestos-management

Image credit | Alamy

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