What should you look for when engaging a licensed asbestos removal contractor? Sebastian Mazurczak outlines the key considerations.

Asbestos removals are associated with high costs, high risk and some uncertainty as to whether the works will be carried out to a good standard. Following the changes made under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, more organisations are looking to licensed asbestos removal contractors (LARCs) to carry out any asbestos remediation works required within their premises. With so many contractors to choose from, the asbestos removal market seems truly saturated. For peace of mind when selecting a competent contractor, and to be assured that the works will be carried out to the required standard, organisations should undertake a number of relevant checks when procuring services.

Asbestos licence

The initial point is that the LARC should have a current asbestos licence giving it permission to work on all asbestos types in any condition. According to the first licence condition, the LARC must make the original or copy available when tendering or quoting for any works, if requested by authorities or when notifying any works to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

Licences issued can be for one, two or three years. Fully experienced contractors will hold a licence for a maximum of three years until it needs to be renewed. Licences valid for less than three years are given to contractors that have action plans imposed on them by the licensing office, have shown poor performance or have other factors in place which limit the work they can do. One-year licences are generally given to new applicants who have not yet built up their work experience with asbestos.

Whatever conditions or restrictions are in place, these will be written on the licence. For example, the licence may list restrictions such as:

  • supervisory work only

  • ancillary work only, eg when putting up and taking down scaffolding that may disturb asbestos during licensable works

  • the removal of asbestos, but only at specific premises.

The other two standard licence conditions are that notice will be given to the appropriate HSE or local authority office with all the details of the works within the required time, and that certain documentation must be presented when notice of work is given.

Enforcement notices and prosecutions

The next thing to consider when procuring the services of an LARC is whether it has or has had any enforcement notices or prosecutions against it. Under the Environment and Safety Information Act 1988, local authorities are required to maintain a public register. The HSE holds a public registry available online for viewing all notices and prosecutions served on all contractors and companies by itself and local authorities for breaches of health and safety law. These are held for five years on the database regardless of whether any remedial action has taken place or the problem has been resolved. After that time the information is stored in its Notice History Database. It should be noted that information is also available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Liability insurance

It is also necessary to ensure is that the LARC holds adequate insurance cover for the works to be undertaken and that this insurance cover is up to date. There are three insurance types that the LARC will need.

  • Public liability – as all work has some level of risk, this insurance protects against a negative event that would affect the public, trespassers or visitors.

  • Professional indemnity – this protects the contractor from any errors in workmanship, breach of professional duty, negligence or mistakes.

  • Employers’ liability – many companies trade as a limited company. These companies are required by UK law to have employers’ liability insurance cover for employees or subcontractors used.

Subcontractors

A further consideration is whether the LARC will use its own workforce solely or is likely to subcontract the works. Use of the LARC’s own staff will provide some assurance to the client, as it removes worries about the standard and management of subcontractors. If subcontractors are used, it will be necessary to consider all of the points above and to carry out the same exercise on the subcontractor. Contractors should not object to requests for a sample of CVs of their workforce, as this approach is common in any tender applications. Requesting references regarding past work will also give a fair indication of the quality of work of the company’s workforce.

Accreditation

If all is in order, the final thing to consider is any additional third party accreditations that the LARC may hold.

Here are some of the some of the more common accreditations to look out for.

  • Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA) is a well-known accreditation for asbestos removal contractors within the asbestos industry. ARCA maintains strict rules for membership in terms of demonstrating a high standard of workmanship and health and safety management. Members are also audited independently twice a year to ensure that those high standards are upheld.

  • Asbestos Control & Abatement Division (ACAD) is a trade association for companies involved in the asbestos industry. ACAD provides support and aims to improve the overall health and safety standards within the asbestos removal industry by providing training and promoting good working practice.

  • Construction Line is a Government-backed pre-qualification service, not only for the asbestos industry but for all companies involved in construction. Companies are pre-vetted by the Government to provide assurance that the approved contractor has met all the minimum procurement requirements.

  • The Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) is another pre-qualification scheme, where companies have to meet all UK health and safety standards by providing their assessments, a health and safety policy, their health and safety organisational structure and their specific health and safety arrangements for the type of work that the contractor will be involved in.

  • Safe Contractor is a further pre-qualification health and safety assessment scheme to promote higher standards of competence and compliance where the contractors are vetted within their field of expertise.

  • EXOR was established to provide assurance within the supply chain that suppliers meet certain compliance and procurement standards when providing a service. It takes into account the efficiency, reliability, economic stability, regeneration and risk management of companies that sign up to it.

  • International Standards are not a true reflection of the company’s competency but are rather a way of showing prospective clients how it operates. Asbestos removal companies wanting to demonstrate efficiency and effectiveness within their organisation would consider these accreditations. There are many that they could strive for, but the most common ones are:

    • ISO 9001:2008 – this demonstrates that the LARC has a good quality management system and that it is customer focused by running its business in the most efficient way

    • ISO 14001:2004 – this demonstrates that the LARC has a good environmental management system and controls the effect the company has on the environment

    • OHSAS 18001:2007 – this demonstrates that the LARC has a competent workforce with regards to legal compliance and health and safety.

So, there are many ways in which anyone procuring the services of a LARC can gain confidence and assurance that the company they choose will be competent for the asbestos abatement works needed, and that it will be carried out to a good standard.

Last reviewed 8 July 2014