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Recently an article appeared on the digital publication that details changes in the Asbestos Abatement regulations. The article has caused something of an uproar between estate agents as it mentions how “asbestos is now outlawed and building owners have only 14 months to plan removals, including homes” (at the time of writing). However, this is not entirely accurate. Other problematic statements are also made in the article, which has been causing confusion. So, what are the new regulations and what will it hold for you?

Firstly, it must be noted that the new Asbestos Abatement Regulations are not entirely as clear as they could be, making it difficult to assess exactly which buildings are relevant to the new laws. What the regulations do state is that only ‘workplaces’ are affected. However, since many people do, in fact, work from home and employ workers to do domestic work in and around the home, it is unclear whether or not these places are included under the new regulations.

However, since new laws aim to avoid restrictions on freedom and other basic rights, the likelihood of its application in these kinds of instances are minimal and therefore these properties should be viewed as primarily being residential places instead of ‘workplaces’ until greater clarity is provided in this regard.

Plainly put, all the regulations pertain to these four aspects of asbestos:

  • Where asbestos is present
  • Inspection and assessment of the state in which it is
  • The health risks it poses to people
  • Removal of asbestos where it is unsafe

The regulations are largely applicable immediately, but since regulation 3 specifically relates to the employer’s duty to identify and assess asbestos in the workplace, many of the other regulations won’t be enforceable until that task has been completed. As such, employers have been granted until the 9th of May 2022 to assess the workplace, which is 18 months after the regulations were first published.

The details of the new regulations are concerned with how asbestos and asbestos-containing materials need to be handled in the workplace. This creates a fair amount of compliance work for employers who must now:

  • Know the location, volume, and state of asbestos in the workplace
  • Assess the risks that asbestos poses
  • Put plans in place for frequent re-assessment
  • Take measures to remove the asbestos if it is determined to pose a threat
  • Ensure that they deal appropriately with employees who have been exposed to asbestos
  • Transport and package asbestos in new ways

The regulations do not introduce the application of a new compliance certificate for properties where asbestos is present, but it does require the owners of property where asbestos can be found to have an inventory of “asbestos in place”, which must be presented when there is a property transfer. This will have specific application for estate agents who deal with commercial and industrial property.

Where applicable, the deed of sale will require new clauses that detail the inventory of asbestos in place as is required by the regulations. If there is no inventory of asbestos or asbestos-containing materials, a clause will need to be included in the deed of sale that determines to provide such an inventory on the registration of the transfer.

Homeowners must be advised that even if they have items such as roofing (for instance) that contains asbestos, they will not suddenly need to replace their roofing before the 9th of May 2022. The more likely scenario would be that they will need to contract an inspector to assess the integrity of the asbestos if their place of residence doubles as a workplace. Regardless, it would be smart to check your house for asbestos if it is an old home to eliminate the possibility of asbestos dust causing a serious health hazard for you and your family.

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).

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