The Health and Safety Inspectorate (HSI) has recently carried out an initiative to review how the hotel industry is managing the risks of exposure to asbestos within the workplace, taking into account the requirements of the ‘Management of Exposure to Asbestos in Workplace Buildings and Structures: Approved Code of Practice’ (Asbestos ACoP).
Hotels were specifically targeted during this initiative as there has been a number of inadvertent disturbances of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) on hotel premises in recent years, which have resulted in persons being exposed to airborne asbestos fibre. More often than not, these have been caused by sub-contractors and / or in-house maintenance operatives carrying our refurbishment work.
During the initiative, a variety of hotels were visited, ranging from small privately owned premises to those owned and / or operated within a hotel group. A total of 16 separate duty holders were visited, representing 24 different hotels.
Where a duty holder was unable to demonstrate evidence of managing the potential for exposure to asbestos within the hotel an improvement notice was served under Article 13 of the Health and Safety at Work (Jersey) Law 1989 (HSW Law). A total of 9 improvement notices were served during the initiative, with the size and / or standard of hotel having no significant bearing on the degree of compliance with the legal requirements.
The HSW Law places general duties on employers in respect of its employees and also other persons who visit the premises, such as hotel guests, other visitors and contractors:
- article 3 of the HSW Law places a duty on an employer, to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of all its employees
- article 5 places a duty on an employer to conduct its undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons other than its employees are not exposed to risk to their health or safety e.g. guests and other members of the public
- article 6 also requires a person in control of premises to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the premises are safe and without risk to health to persons other than its own employees who use the premises as a place of work e.g. contractors
Practical guidance on meeting the legal duties imposed by the HSW law, in respect of managing the risks associated with exposure to asbestos, is set out in the Asbestos ACoP.
The Asbestos ACoP has a special legal status in that whilst a failure to comply with the code is not in itself an offence, a duty holder can be prosecuted for contravening the HSW law unless he can satisfy the court that he has complied with the law in some other way. If the guidance in the ACoP is followed, he would be doing enough to comply with the law.
Part two of the Asbestos ACoP sets out the requirements for an Asbestos Management Plan (AMP). This document is designed to ensure that the risk of coming into contact with asbestos-containing materials within the premises, during both normal occupation and any construction activities (including routine maintenance work), is properly controlled.
An AMP should include four fundamental elements:
- an asbestos register, which identifies asbestos-containing materials on the premises and an assessment of risk from any such materials
- identification of the measures required to ensure any risks from exposure to any asbestos-containing materials are controlled
- the arrangements for dealing with any incidents or emergencies relating to asbestos
- the arrangements for monitoring and reviewing the effectiveness of the AMP
The initiative identified that there was a broad variation in the level of awareness and understanding about the legal requirements relating to asbestos and the requirement for an AMP. This did not appear to be related to the size or standard of hotel.
Where improvement notices were served, the duty holders had taken no steps to consider the risk of ACMs being present on the premises, or potential exposure to asbestos fibre. They were therefore required to develop an appropriate AMP, or take equally effective steps to ensure that any risks to persons were being controlled.
Of the remaining premises the majority had had an asbestos survey carried out and an asbestos register was in place. However the duty holder had not developed the AMP to incorporate the arrangements for the on-going management of ACMs, as set out in points 2-4 above. In such cases, the duty holder was written to formally and required to demonstrate that any shortcomings had been addressed.
This initiative has identified that many duty holders are still unaware of their legal obligations to manage the risks associated with ACMs. Although this initiative focused on hotels, the same legal requirements relate to all workplaces. It is essential that every employer, and others in control of workplace premises, ensures that an appropriate AMP is in place, or equally effective steps are taken to manage the potential risks of ACMs.
Part 2 of the Asbestos ACoP provides detailed guidance of developing an AMP. Copies can be downloaded from the page below or obtained, free of charge, by calling the Health and Safety Inspectorate.
Management of exposure to asbestos in the workplace (industry and finance section)