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Legal and Finance: Crucial change in asbestos regulations affect millions of properties.

Employers are being urged to act now in managing asbestos in all commercial properties - if they are to avoid paying premium costs for specialist surveyors.

The warning comes as the new Control of Asbestos at Work regulations move nearer to being introduced.

Jill Pearshouse, a solicitor at Lichfield-based Keelys, says there is already huge demand for these sur-veyors who will determine whether asbestos containing materials can be undisturbed and sealed in or whether they must be removed and disposed of by properly accredited contractors.

She said: 'The new regulations are expected to affect over four million buildings. All employers whether they own or lease business premises will be legally required to identify any asbestos-containing materials, assess their condition and create an action plan to deal with them.

'From spring 2004 non compliance of these regulations will mean prosecution for any owner or occupier who fails to identify and act on asbestos containing materials. Those leaving compliance until the last minute will have to pay substantial premiums to have the surveys completed on time and may run the risk of a hefty fine or imprisonment if these surveys are late.'

Ms Pearshouse believes that it is essential to appoint a properly qualified and insured surveyor for this task.

She went on: 'An unqualified contractor providing a sub-standard survey can cause more harm than good as it could lead to damaged asbestos containing materials being overlooked.

'The surveyor must identify all asbestos in the building and a system must be established pinpointing any risks and ensuring that safety procedures are in place whenever anyone is likely to be working in a risk area.

Even those who own or occupy property, which has been recently constructed, cannot afford to be complacent as asbestos in relatively new buildings is a massive problem.

'As figures for asbestos related deaths look set to rise to 10,000 per year in the UK by 2010 the financial costs for not complying with the new regulations are significant. Not only do employers run the risk of fines and imprisonment they will also face the financial burden of personal injury claims bought by staff who fall victim to asbestos related disease.'
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 30, 2003
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