Though fire tends to be the most ‘high-profile’ risk when it comes to health and safety, there are other important things to consider when managing the safety of your block; such as Asbestos and Legionella. Legionella in particular is often considered a low risk, low priority issue. However, it would be a mistake to underestimate the potential consequences of ignoring an issue and not managing any risk.
We have put together a quick guide for Property Managers on managing the risks of both Legionella and Asbestos; starting with Asbestos.
Asbestos: The Duty to Manage
Asbestos remains the UK’s biggest workplace killer; 20 tradesmen die a week from past exposure to Asbestos. This is why it is so important that we control Asbestos and ensure that people (such as Contractors, Tenants and Property Managers) are not exposed to it during their everyday working activities.
Below, we have answered some key questions in relation to Asbestos, Asbestos related diseases, and your duties as somebody in control of a premises.
What is Asbestosis and what are the symptoms?
Asbestosis is a serious long-term lung condition caused by prolonged exposure to Asbestos. Some of the symptoms of Asbestosis include: difficulty swallowing, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, hyper tension, and swelling in the neck and face.
Where is Asbestos likely to be found?
Asbestos can be found in a number of different areas of a property, some of the lower risk Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) include: floor tiles, cement flues and sheets, and textured Coating. Whilst some of the higher risk ACMS are sprayed coating, loose fill, dust/debris, and AIB Ceiling tiles.
Do materials need to be tested to confirm they are Asbestos?
There is no way to definitely identify asbestos by sight, it needs to be tested by an expert. Many materials that do not contain Asbestos look just the same as materials that do. You should treat all suspect materials as Asbestos unless proven otherwise. When samples are taken by our Surveyor during an Asbestos Survey, they are taken to a UCAS Accredited Lab for testing.
What is the ‘Duty to Manage’?
The Duty to Manage Asbestos is contained in Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.
The Dutyholder (employer or person in control of the premises such as a Property Manager or Landlord) is responsible for reducing the risks of exposure to Asbestos and should be taking four essential steps in order to comply:
- Find out whether the premises contain Asbestos, and, if so, where it is and what conditions it is in. If in doubt, materials must be presumed to contain Asbestos
- Assess the risk from Asbestos present in the premises
- Make a plan to manage the risk and act on it
- Provide this information to other employers (e.g. building contractors) who are likely to disturb any Asbestos present
If you are Dutyholder you should have an Asbestos Management Survey carried out by an experienced Surveyor, who will assess the premises to find out if it contains Asbestos and take samples where necessary to confirm. You should then be acting on the findings and evaluating the risks, and seeking expert advice on recommendations. You can find out more about what to do next, here.
5 things that Property Managers should know about Legionella
The law is clear that if you are a Landlord or Property Manager you will need to ensure that the properties you manage are safe and free from health hazards (HSE). Duties under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HASWA) extend to risks from Legionella bacteria and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002 (COSHH) provide a framework of actions designed to assess, prevent or control the risk from bacteria like Legionella. Furthermore, the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP): Legionnaires’ disease: The control of Legionella bacteria in water systems (L8) contains practical guidance on how to manage and control the risks in water systems.
Below, we have listed 5 important facts about Legionella and Legionnaire’s disease, that you should know:
- Legionnaire’s disease is a potentially fatal form of Pneumonia caused by Legionella Bacteria. In 2019 there were 519 confirmed cases of Legionnaires disease, and in 2018 there were 814.
- Legionnaires disease is contracted through the inhalation of small droplets of water (aerosols) suspended in the air; most commonly through showers, air-conditioning units, taps, sprinklers and other outlets that cause an aerosol.
- The symptoms of Legionnaires disease include: high temperature, cough, muscle pains, headache, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and signs of mental confusion.
- Legionella bacteria need the right conditions in order to survive; with the right environmental conditions, any water system can be a source of growth for Legionella. Legionella bacteria thrives if:
- temperatures are between 20°C and 45°C (The Human body temperature is 36.1-37.2, ideal for the growth of legionella bacteria)
- there are sources of nutrients such as rust, scale or organic matter
- there is no flow and water is stagnant
5. As an employer, or somebody in control of the premises (i.e. Landlord or Property Manager), you are responsible for Health and Safety and therefore need to take the correct precautions to reduce the risks of exposure to Legionella. These duties include: identifying and assessing sources of risk, managing any risks, preventing or controlling any risks, and keeping and maintaining the correct records; more information about this can be found here.