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Asbestos at Work

Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos related diseases, mainly cancers of the lungs and chest lining.

Asbestos is only a risk to health if asbestos fibres are released into the air and breathed in.

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If you own, occupy, manage or have responsibility for premises which may contain asbestos you will either have:

  • a legal duty to manage the risk from this material or
  • a duty to co-operate with whoever manages the risk

Guidance is contained in "Managing Asbestos in Premises" INDG223(rev.3) available to download free of charge from the link below. Other useful information is available from the links below also. These Health and Safety Executive (HSE) sites also have lots of other useful information regarding asbestos.

10 Key Facts about Managing Asbestos

  • If you don't effectively manage asbestos in your premises, you could be putting your employees' and other people’s health at risk.
  • Exposure to asbestos occurs when you or others disturb it (eg drill, cut or break it up), releasing fibres into the air we breathe.
  • Asbestos in good condition can be left in place and managed.
  • Most work on asbestos requires a licence from the Health and Safety Executive, but some minor short term work on asbestos can be done without a licence if the correct precautions are followed.
  • Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations is a duty to manage asbestos material, not a duty to survey your premises.
  • You don't have to do a survey, but you have a duty to manage your asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) if there is a possibility that your building contains them. If you do not have a survey you will need to assume that all materials which may contain asbestos are ACM's
  • A bad survey is worse than not carrying out a survey.
  • Managing asbestos means maintaining your ACMs in good condition to protect:

1.      those who work on the fabric of the building (eg. electricians, plumbers, etc);

2.      those who work in the building (eg. plant and office workers, cleaners, etc) who may come into contact or work near damaged or deteriorated ACMs.

  • Damaged or deteriorated ACMs should be repaired or removed, or isolated until remedial action can be taken.
  • Your Asbestos Management Plan is your way of ensuring that your employees or others (e.g. contractors) do not disturb your ACMs;
  • It can take many forms and need not be complex, but it does need to be effective.

Further advice is available on the Health and Safety Executive Asbestos Campaign webpages,or the UK website of the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work. Please refer to the corresponding links.

Advice and contacts for specialist contractors can be obtained from the website of the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA), the trade association which promotes and maintains the safe working standards required for the handling and removing of asbestos and other airborne hazardous materials.