Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in the construction and automotive industries until its ban in 1999, when its carcinogenic properties were confirmed. It is still in many buildings, both domestic and commercial, and there are vital legal and health issues to know about when handling it. What are the dangers of asbestos in a commercial premises? Asbestos was used in the construction of almost every area of property development for decades. With excellent properties for insulation, it was used for internal and external panelling, roofing and drainage materials, boilers, tanks, service and heating ducts, windows, doors, skirting boards, bathrooms, toilets, kitchens, ceilings, and floors as well as roof and pipe insulation. The added extra complexity could be a few surprising finds where previous attempts have been made to try and remove asbestos, or where a product containing asbestos has simply been covered over – but still remains hidden underneath. Whether your building is for commercial offices, a factory, retail unit, industrial unit or even a school, it may well contain asbestos. If it was constructed before 1980 then there is the greatest likelihood that it definitely has asbestos-containing materials in a plethora of places. How to check if a commercial premises has asbestos If the commercial premises was constructed prior to 1980 then there is a very great probability that asbestos was used in the construction. Some of the items which were made from moulded asbestos mixed with cement or other materials and have become a non-friable material and aren’t dangerous. However, as damage can occur over time, it is always safer to remove the asbestos containing materials completely. Moulded items often carry an ‘AC’ stamp which confirms the presence of asbestos, where a ‘NT’ stamp does not. Many asbestos materials have a mottled surface pattern or are an off-white, grey colour and drywall is very common in commercial buildings which generally contains asbestos. Many of these non-friable materials are not necessarily problematic if they are undisturbed, but the dangers occur when these items become disturbed and begin to break down. This means that the microfibres of the asbestos become airborne and extremely dangerous when inhaled. Read more here about how to identify asbestos. There are two sorts of survey for a commercial property. The first is a management survey which is designed to help manage the asbestos risk within a building and it will need to be repeated every three to five years. The second type of survey is a refurbishment or demolition survey, and this is when considerable modifications or a total demolition of the building is planned in order to make sure the work is undertaken safely and legally. Commercial buildings, asbestos, and the law Anyone buying or renting a commercial property is responsible for managing any asbestos that might be present in the building. Usually, this is initially assessed by an accredited surveyor who will be called in to carry out an asbestos survey. As a result of this initial survey, a health and safety risk assessment will need to be created, and information shared with anyone who is likely to potentially come into contact with it. The tenant or owner is then responsible to have a plan to either encapsulate it, properly sealing it, or to have it removed. There is a legal obligation to carry these steps out and even if the building is vacant, the owner is still obligated to carry out these checks. Failing to do so can result in a fine up to £20,000 or even imprisonment up to 12 months. What to do about asbestos in your commercial building As previously stated, with a legal obligation to remove or contain any asbestos that might be present in your commercial building, it is best to call the experts in. Asbestos, being such a volatile material, is not something that should be handled, examined or in any way managed by someone who isn’t properly trained. DES Holdings have had over 30 years in the industry and have the training, accreditations, and specialist knowledge to help. First we will come to your site and conduct a comprehensive survey, removing any samples of materials that we may wish to have tested in a laboratory. We will then offer you advice on the next steps, how to protect yourself and anyone using the building, as well as then removing it in line with the legal guidelines. Get in touch today to book the survey of your commercial building.