Checking for asbestos in buildings

Building inspection of commercial buildings prior to purchase should include assessment of the presence of asbestos due to its prevalence as a building and insulation material up until the 1970’s. Asbestos building products include asbestos cement cladding, textured ceiling coatings (in residential housing as well as commercial premises), thermal insulation around pipes and boilers, and fire-protective linings on structural steel. The presence of asbestos building products has both employment and property law implications. The Occupational Safety and Health Service of the Department of Labour (“OSH”) administer the Health and Safety in Employment (Asbestos) Regulations 1998, and have issued Guidelines for the Management and Removal of Asbestos. A copy of the guidelines are on the OSH website. The guidelines require the need to identify and assess asbestos in buildings, and require owners (but not owners of private homes) to:

  • take all practical steps to identify asbestos products within their properties and record the location and condition of such asbestos, once identified, in a record for the building in accordance with the OSH guidelines;
  • inform tenants of the presence of asbestos and of any action on asbestos which may become necessary; and
  • ensure that all contractors required to do work are informed of the presence of asbestos.