Asbestos Management: Supporting UK Retailers in 2016

Posted by James Dodgson on 19-Apr-2016 17:31:51
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With nearly 300,000 outlets across the nation, the retail industry is a major contributor to the UK’s economy. However, in recent years, consumers have started shopping more frequently but purchasing fewer items during each trip in a habit known as the ‘little and often’ trend. Furthermore, trading restrictions on larger stores have led to companies adapting the way in which they conduct business.


Shifting shopping habits

In England and Wales, under the Sunday Trading Act, shops larger than 280 square meters are only permitted to open for six continual hours between 10am and 6pm. To capitalise on unrestricted opening times, many retailers have significantly increased the number of their smaller, more convenient, outlets.

Of course, with a limited amount of space in towns and cities, setting up a convenience store in a local area often means redeveloping existing, older buildings on the high street and in communities, many of which haven’t been previously used for retail purposes. These may be ex-offices, former public houses, vacant units beneath residential properties, or even converted industrial buildings.

While this certainly helps traders reach their customers on a more personal and local level, it also raises particular challenges in preparing the buildings for their new purpose.  


An unclear and present danger

Asbestos is a substance still responsible for around 4,500 deaths per year. Before the year 2000, it was commonly used throughout the UK construction sector, therefore any British industrial, commercial or residential premises built or refurbished before that time may be constructed with products including asbestos containing materials.

In fact, in spite of the UK asbestos ban in 1999, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that there are around half a million non-domestic buildings in the UK that still house asbestos containing materials.

In pre-2000 properties, asbestos can be found in anything from ceiling coatings and certain paints to toilet cisterns, floor tiles, pipework lagging and construction boards, meaning that only a highly trained specialist is able to fully and accurately identify all potential sources within a building.

For retailers investing in properties that have been built or renovated before the end of the last century, there are a number of legal obligations to consider under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR2012). These include carrying out a full survey to locate any asbestos containing materials on the premises as well as ensuring any materials known or presumed to contain asbestos are suitably managed.

The consequences for non-compliance are severe. For breaching CAR2012, offenders can face an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment of up to two years, not to mention the huge financial costs from the shutdown of an affected store and of course the potential for reputational damage.


The importance of a reliable service

For each unplanned day a retailer is forced to close its doors (or delay opening new stores), it makes a loss, which means that when carrying out asbestos services, reactiveness and reliability are two vital elements. If managed correctly, asbestos is an issue that retailers can manage with a minimal amount of disruption to operations.

If you’re a retailer, concerned about the presence of asbestos in your premises, it’s critical that you have your property examined by a competent and accredited asbestos management provider and ensure any suspect materials are tested under suitable laboratory conditions.

In recent years, we have seen a huge growth in demand coming from almost every corner of the retail sector. Today, the industry accounts for significant proportion of our asbestos management business.

Current consumer trends suggest that, as shoppers become more accustomed to convenience stores, the demand for smaller retail spaces will rise over the coming years, in order to support this growth there is still much work to be done to manage the threat presented by asbestos containing materials within the commercial environment.

If you would like to find out more about ESG’s asbestos management services, email:


Topics: Asbestos, Asbestos Management, Retail, Built Environment