3000 people a year die from an asbestos related disease due to past exposure. This number is expected to continue rising for the next ten years. Asbestos is only a risk to health if fibres are released into the air and breathed in.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 makes it a requirement to manage asbestos in buildings. Every duty holder needs to arrange for a suitable and sufficient assessment to be completed which details:

  • the locations and condition of any asbestos or, suspected asbestos materials within the premises which are reasonably accessible 
  • the findings of the assessment and every subsequent review.

Asbestos could be present in a building constructed or refurbished prior to 2000 and can be found in:

  • Sprayed asbestos and asbestos loose packing - generally used as fire-breaks in ceiling voids
  • moulded or preformed sprayed coatings and lagging - generally used in thermal insulation of pipes and boilers
  • insulating boards used for fire protection, thermal insulation, partitioning and ducts;
  • some ceiling tiles
  • asbestos cement products that can be compressed into flat or corrugated sheets (these sheets are largely used as roofing and wall cladding). Other asbestos cement products include gutters, rain water pipes and water tanks
  • certain textured ceilings.

What to remember:

  • Asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed. If it is safely managed and contained, it doesn't present a health hazard
  • don't remove asbestos unnecessarily - removing it can be more dangerous than leaving it in place and managing it
  • not all asbestos materials present the same risk. The measures that need to be taken for controlling the risks from materials such as pipe insulation are different from those needed in relation to asbestos cement
  • don't assume you need to bring in a specialist in every case (for example, you can inspect your own building rather than employ a surveyor). But, if you do, make sure they are competent
  • if you are unsure about whether certain materials contain asbestos, you can presume they do and treat them as such
  • remember that the duty to manage is all about putting in place the practical steps necessary to protect maintenance.

The duty to manage requires those in control of premises to:

  • Take reasonable steps to determine the location and condition of materials likely to contain asbestos
  • presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not
  • make and keep an up to date record of the location and condition of any asbestos containing materials (ACMs) or presumed ACMs in the premises
  • assess the risk of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to fibres from these materials;
  • prepare a plan setting out how the risks from the materials are to be managed
  • take the necessary steps to put the plan into action
  • review and monitor the plan periodically
  • provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

Deciding what to do

If the asbestos is in good condition, not likely to be damaged and not likely to be worked on, it is safe to leave it in place and introduce the management system. This system periodically checks the asbestos is correctly labelled, it remains in a good condition and it has not been damaged.

If asbestos is in poor condition or it is likely to be damaged or disturbed, it should be repaired, sealed, enclosed or removed. You will need to seek specialist advice from a contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) regarding the appropriate action to take.

Frequently asked questions on asbestos related health and safety, provided by the HSE.

The following leaflets/ guidance is for people who own, manage or have responsibilities for buildings, which may contain asbestos. This includes all non-domestic buildings, whatever the type of business, and the common areas of domestic buildings, e.g. halls, stairwells, lift shafts, roof spaces. The guidance does not apply to other domestic properties:

Asbestos Essentials is a task manual for building, maintenance and allied trades on how to safely carry out non-licensed work involving asbestos.