Norwich Union warns property owners of the need to manage the risk of asbestos

Article date: 18 March 2008

Norwich Union is warning property owners of the need to manage and control the risk of asbestos, as the Health & Safety Executive steps up its campaign to warn tradesmen of the dangers.

Phil Grace, liability risk manager, Norwich Union, says: "Asbestos is the single biggest cause of work related deaths¹ and continues to be a risk that needs controlling. Property owners have a duty of care to identify its presence and take the necessary precautions.

"Property owners, or those with control of the building, must manage the risk and be clear what their responsibility is.

"Property owners can do their own investigation by checking building records and any previous fire damage, which may have led to refitting parts of the building, and the nature of materials used. The only positive way to identify asbestos is by having it analysed by a reputable laboratory. Once identified, the location of any asbestos must be clearly marked. 

"If asbestos is present, the risk needs to be assessed," says Grace. "The common perception is that asbestos is a costly problem to solve, but the truth is that property owners can often manage the risk without the need to spend huge amounts of money.

"If, for example, the asbestos is in cement then it won't shed fibres and therefore no measures need to be taken. If it's found in the insulation panels in a boiler room, or any area where employees do not have access, then it can be left alone. However, property owners must inform all tradesmen who are likely to work in this area of the building that asbestos is present. Property owners must ensure asbestos is periodically inspected to check on its condition.

"Should asbestos be found in an area that employees are exposed to and where asbestos fibres are being released into the air, it will need to be sealed, enclosed and removed by a competent contractor who may need to be licensed by the HSE.

"Crucially, any employees or contractors who are involved with building maintenance must be informed of where asbestos may be present and what sort of materials contain asbestos. They must be fully aware of the health risks and must know not to disturb it."

Norwich Union has recently launched a Simply Safety campaign to help small businesses manage their health and safety issues. A downloadable guide advising trades on how to approach work where there might be a risk of asbestos present is available at www.nurs.co.uk/.

A "Managing Asbestos Risks" course is also available from Norwich Union Risk Services, (www.nurs.co.uk) which provides information to identify and assess asbestos risks and the skills to develop an ongoing management programme.

Norwich Union Risk Services (NURS) also has preferred suppliers able to carry out asbestos surveys at discounted rates for Norwich Union customers.

-ends-

For further information, please contact:
Alex Anderson 0161 9198021/07779 162583 or Sam Bramwell 0161 919 8024/07738 196667 at Staniforth or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684 225/07800 699 670.

Notes to Editors

¹ According to HSE http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos

About Norwich Union
Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at www.aviva.com/media.

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