Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral. It has been used for over a hundred years in buildings for fire proofing, thermal, electrical and sound insulation, plasters, roof and flooring materials, gasket and friction products and many other uses. The supply and use of asbestos containing materials was banned in the UK in 1999, but many properties built before then may contain asbestos. 

All forms (blue, brown and white) are a health hazard, when the asbestos fibres are released into the air and inhaled. Inhaled fibres can cause asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, a cancer of the inner lining of the chest or abdominal wall.

For more information on asbestos visit the Health and Safety Executive's website.

Legislation

There are many hundreds of thousands of tonnes of asbestos materials still left in buildings in Britain. In order to minimise the adverse health effects of this asbestos the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2006 (CAWR 2006) were introduced, this was amended and updated by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

Regulation 4 deals with the management of risk from asbestos in non-domestic buildings.

The broad requirements on the duty holders are to:

  • take reasonable steps to determine the location of materials likely to contain asbestos
  • presume materials to contain asbestos, unless there are good reasons not to do so
  • make and maintain a written record of the location of the asbestos and presumed asbestos materials
  • monitor the condition of asbestos and presumed asbestos materials
  • assess the risk of exposure from the asbestos and presumed asbestos materials and document the actions necessary to manage the risk
  • take steps to see that the actions above are carried out

To manage the risk from asbestos-containing materials you will need to:

  • keep and maintain an up-to-date record of the location, condition, maintenance and removal of all asbestos-containing materials on the premises
  • repair, seal or remove, if there is a risk of exposure due to its condition or location
  • maintain it in a good state of repair and regularly monitor the condition
  • inform anyone who is likely to disturb it about the location and condition of the material
  • have arrangements and procedures in place, so that work which may disturb the materials complies with CAWR
  • review the plan at regular intervals and make changes to the plan and arrangements if circumstances change

(Above points taken from the Health and Safety Executive’s ‘Methods for the Determination of Hazardous Substances (MDHS) 100, Surveying, sampling and assessment of asbestos-containing materials, 2001’)

If you decide to have asbestos removed from your premises, this must, in general be carried out by a contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive. There are minor exceptions for work of short duration.

Work with asbestos cement and work with materials of bitumen, plastic, resins or rubber which contain asbestos does not require a licence.However, a detailed risk assessment will be required and for most practical purposes it will be safer to employ a licensed contractor.

For most work the licensed contractor will have to give the enforcing authority that is. Health and Safety Executive or Local Authority 14 days notice of the removal. This requirement can be waived in certain extenuating circumstances.

Local Authorities are the enforcing authority for shops, offices, hotels and other commercial premises.

Further information