Asbestos removal and CDM 2015: Clients legal responsibilities


Steve Sadley, Chief Executive at ARCA details the legal responsibilities of Clients when appointing asbestos contractors under the CDM 2015 regulations…

The human cost of asbestos disease is devastating and significant exposures are entirely avoidable. When asbestos is managed well, inadvertent exposure is prevented and asbestos will be dealt with in a controlled and safe manner. The financial and reputational costs of getting asbestos management wrong are substantial.

Clients are at the head of the procurement chain, so they ultimately have the final say on the course of action to be taken during a project. Therefore they have enormous opportunities to control how a project is ultimately delivered and set standards for how they want the project to be delivered. They are also in a position to make arrangements to check that others they are depending on to deliver the project, are doing what they need to do to manage health and safety.

The law therefore requires that clients make suitable arrangements for managing a project, and maintaining and reviewing these arrangements throughout the project, so it is carried out in a way that manages the health and safety risks.

Commercial clients have a duty under Sections 2 and 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 to ensure the health, safety and welfare of their employees and any persons who visit their premises or may be affected by work done on their premises.

Also, the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015) place explicit responsibilities on clients.

For a project to be successful good coordination and cooperation between all parties is a must. Clients’ decisions, actions and inaction have an enormous impact on how work can be delivered. They could cause contractors to fail to meet industry and legal standards, and therefore potentially leaving themselves with substantial criminal and civil liabilities, lengthy delays and disruptions to projects.

Clients are not expected to be ‘experts’ in either construction work or asbestos work and do not need to directly manage or supervise the work themselves. However, they are responsible for ensuring appropriate arrangements are in place to manage and organise projects during both the ‘pre-construction’ and ‘construction’ phases of the project. What does this mean when appointing an asbestos contractor?

This means clients need to appoint suitably competent people by making reasonable enquiries to satisfy themselves that contractors are appropriately resourced and competent for the work. Clients should also provide contractors with sufficient information, time and resources to do the job properly. For example, an asbestos removal contractor will need appropriate pre-construction information in order to prepare a suitable work plan, and contractors need time (and access) to assess the premises properly and discuss key site information with the client.

Also for licensed asbestos work, an analyst must be appointed, (it is desirable that the analyst is employed directly by the client) to verify that a work area has been thoroughly cleaned and that airborne fibre in the work area is as low as reasonably practicable, prior to handover for reoccupation or demolition etc.

In summary, to comply with the law when appointing an asbestos contractor the Client must:

  • Ensure adequate welfare is in place.

This requires cooperation, coordination and communication between all parties. Clients must confirm that adequate facilities (toilets and washing areas, rest areas, access to drinking water, changing rooms and lockers) are in place.

  • Allow adequate time and space.

Clients must allow sufficient time for asbestos surveys to be carried out, for example, an effective refurbishment and demolition survey cannot be carried out in an occupied building.

  • Ensure an adequate plan is in place for the work.

For any kind of work with asbestos, clients must ensure there is a written plan of work in place. For very simple un-licensed jobs, the kinds of work methods described in the Asbestos Essentials guide (available on the Health and Safety Executive web site) may suffice.

For licensed work a ‘suitable and sufficient’ plan of work is always required and is a standard condition placed on all licence holders. It must be prepared prior to work being notified to the enforcing agency, at least 14 days prior to work starting. The written plan of work should very clearly describe the scope of work and explain: what is being removed, where it is located and how is it fixed. In addition, it should state how it will be accessed and what removal methods will be used to prevent/control exposure.

A good plan should be self-explanatory and able to provide the client with confidence that the project has been thoroughly assessed and resourced. Where generic assessments and method statements are presented in a plan of work, this may raise legitimate questions about the adequacy of the contractors’ planning process.

  • Ensure that good communication and coordination is maintained throughout the project.

The client must confirm that effective arrangements have been made to coordinate the work, for example, asbestos contractors’ transit and waste routes must not be obstructed.

To support clients, the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA), has published ‘Guidance on Clients Responsibilities on appointing Asbestos Contractors’ which is available as a free download on the ARCA website.

Steve Sadley

Chief Executive

Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA)

Tel: 01283 566467


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