The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002 required employers to prevent exposure of employees to asbestos.
Although its use in building materials in now prohibited, asbestos was widely used in the past in many building materials, many of which may be found in surgery premises, such as lagging for pipes and boilers, ceiling tiles, electrical insulation, exterior roofing and guttering. Asbestos is the biggest occupational health problem in the UK, however it poses no threat provided the product of which it is a component is in good condition and undisturbed. But if it is disturbed (for example by drilling or cutting) asbestos particles and fibres may be released into the air. If breathed in, asbestos dust settles in the lungs and sufficient exposure may lead to fatal diseases, chiefly cancers of the lung and chest lining.
Since April 2002 it has been the responsibility of building owners and occupiers to establish if asbestos is present and if so in what quantities. A record must be kept of the location and condition of all asbestos-bearing materials, and this information must be provided to anyone who is likely to disturb the material, for example anyone doing building maintenance or alteration.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 came into force on 6 April 2012, updating previous asbestos regulations to take account of the European Commission's view that the UK had not fully implemented the EU Directive on exposure to asbestos (Directive 2009/148/EC).
In practice the changes are fairly limited. They mean that some types of non-licensed work with asbestos now have additional requirements, i.e. notification of work, medical surveillance and record keeping. All other requirements remain unchanged.
While most asbestos products were banned by 1985, some were in use until 1999, so most practice premises are likely to contain some asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). Even old buildings constructed before the asbestos era may nevertheless contain ACMs in the materials used in alterations and refurbishments.
Under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations, practices which have maintenance and repair responsibilities for their premises (either through a contract or tenancy agreement or because they own the premises), are required to manage the risk from asbestos by: