Pharmacy owners, as owners or occupiers of commercial property and as employers, need to be aware of their duties in relation to the management of asbestos in their pharmacy premises and their duties to comply with fire safety legislation.
The key legislation on asbestos is the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (“CAR”) which has been in force since 6 April 2012. The Health and Safety Executive also published an Approved Code of Practice in 2013 which provides guidance and best practice advice on dealing with asbestos.
The CAR applies to all “dutyholders”. Dutyholders are defined within the legislation, but the general principle is that if you are responsible for the repair and maintenance of an area of a building, then you are the dutyholder responsible for compliance with CAR for that area.
In a lease, commonly the landlord will be responsible for any common areas and the tenant will be responsible for the demised premises but you should check your lease for any specific clauses.
Pharmacists are required to determine whether asbestos is present in their pharmacy or is likely to be present and manage any asbestos that is or is likely to be present. In practice, this will mean arranging a risk assessment/survey to identify any asbestos and having a written action plan for managing any asbestos found.
The regulations require a proportionate approach to be taken. As a result, the level of assessment/survey required should reflect this. If the pharmacy is a small shop requiring little maintenance, a walk-through inspection may be adequate. Where extensive works are being undertaken at a pharmacy, a more detailed refurbishment and redevelopment survey may be required, involving a more detailed inspection and sampling of any asbestos.
An assessment is required regardless of whether you plan to do any works which may disturb or expose any asbestos. An additional survey may be required if works to the pharmacy are proposed or done at a later date.
Consequences of non-compliance
Failure to comply with the requirements of CAR may give rise to both criminal sanctions (fines and possible imprisonment) and potential civil liability from those who have been affected. In September 2011 Marks & Spencer Plc was fined £1m and ordered to pay £600,000 in costs for breach of CAR.
Obligations relating to fire safety are set out in the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the “RRO”). Pharmacists are responsible for complying with the RRO in relation to both the internal pharmacy and the external areas such as car parks, loading bays and pathways. As with asbestos legislation, landlords would be responsible for compliance with RRO in relation to any common areas.
The RRO requires pharmacists, as employers and/or owners and/or tenants of premises, to:
- Carry out a fire risk assessment and keep this under review. The standard to which a risk assessment must be carried out is "suitable and sufficient". This means that the assessment needs to be proportionate to the size and type of the premises.
- Take general fire precautions to ensure that employees, customers or any other person lawfully in or in the vicinity of the pharmacy are safe in the event of a fire.
- Keep written records of all assessments and actions taken.
- Make and give effect to fire safety and fire-fighting arrangements such as planning emergency exit routes and installing and maintaining fire safety equipment such as fire alarms and extinguishers.
- Appoint competent persons to help discharge certain duties, such as fire wardens, where necessary and provide information and safety training to employees and third parties who may be affected.
- Consider any risks arising from any dangerous substances at the property and take steps to eliminate or reduce those risks.
Consequences of non-compliance
Inspectors have the power under the RRO to inspect pharmacies and serve notices of non-compliance requiring the pharmacist to take action to remedy the non-compliance or in more serious cases can restrict the use of the pharmacy if they consider the property to be dangerous.
Like asbestos legislation, it is an offence to not comply with the provisions of the RRO and pharmacists can be liable for a fine or even imprisonment in very serious cases of non-compliance.
It is important that pharmacists ensure that they are compliant and keep a written record of all actions taken in relation to asbestos and fire safety so that compliance can be proven. Compliance not only ensures the safety of the building and those working in it, but will be important if and when you come to sell the pharmacy. Any buyer will require these assessments to be done and evidence of compliance with such legislation before completion of any sale.
This article was originally published in Pharmacy Business, January 2016.