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New asbestos law needs to be studied.

Rob Hogg, director of building consultancy at Lambert Smith Hampton in Birmingham, warns that not nearly enough is being done in preparation to comply with the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulation 2002.

'Under Regulation 4, the duty holder of a non-residential property will from May 21 2004 have to ensure a suitable and sufficient assessment has been carried out as to whether asbestos is or is likely to be present in their premises,' he said.

'The findings of that assessment must be recorded and reviewed as necessary and where asbestos has been found or is presumed to be present, the duty holder must put a management plan in place. This may not necessarily involve removing the asbestos-containing materials, but ensuring it isn't dangerous.'

Everyone involved with a nondomestic property whether it be owners, developers, landlords, tenants or property managers are all affected and can fall within the designation of duty holder under CAWR.

Landlords, in particular, face a difficult time in the lead up to the enforcement date and beyond as tenants will insist on a management plan being in place before concluding lease agreements.

Common parts and areas excluded from current lease agreements and within landlord control will now also require a management plan.

Mr Hogg said: 'There are estimated to be four million duty holders in the UK and 1.5 million properties which are believed to have asbestos - and it's not always easy to tell where it is.

'For example, fire doors in older properties may have a concealed asbestos core, it can also be found in vinyl floor tiles, ceiling tiles, pipe lagging and roof cladding sheets.

'Without an assessment no one can tell where danger lurks. For example, one company was installing new light fittings and didn't realise the ceiling tiles contained asbestos until several days later - after the workmen had been drilling into the tiles and exposing employees to asbestos fibres.

'Successful Health and Safety Executive prosecutions can result in massive fines. In a recent civil case, an employer was forced to pay an unprecedented pounds 4.37 million compensation to a former employee's widow due to his earning potential.

'Whilst this case is considered extreme and may be appealed, it emphasises the action courts are prepared to take to ensure the message regarding asbestos exposure hits home to employers and duty holders.'
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:May 22, 2003
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