Health and safety

Asbestos at work

Asbestos is a natural occurring material widely used in the past in the construction trade due to it's heat resistant and fire retardant properties.

Risks of asbestos exposure

When left in place it poses little risk, however if it is disturbed and fibres become airborne and inhaled, it can cause a variety of diseases such as lung cancer and mesothelioma. The risk of contracting these diseases increases with the number and length of exposures and there is often a long period between exposure (15-40 years) and illness occurring.

Since the hazards of asbestos have been identified, its import has been banned and use has been reduced, however up until about 1980 asbestos containing materials (ACMs) were still in use. Because of its use in the construction of the fabric of buildings risk of releasing fibres may now occur during maintenance, refurbishment and demolition or if vandalism occurs.

Materials which may contain asbestos

Typical asbestos containing materials include:

  • cement roof sheet
  • asbestos insulation board
  • spray lagging
  • cement pipe work
  • vinyl floor tiles
  • decorative textured wall and ceiling finishes

Businesses have a legal duty to manage the asbestos in their property, it is therefore essential you know what materials are made of and their location, so that anyone carrying out work at the premises such as electricians, gas fitters, plumbers etc can be informed of the location of the asbestos containing material before any work starts. It is the duty holders responsibility to protect anyone on their premises from the risks of ACMs.

Further information can be obtained from the HSE asbestos page.

Asbestos waste

All asbestos waste is classified as hazardous waste and must be dealt with by a licensed carrier. Fly-tipping asbestos is a criminal offence.

Domestic premises

The legislation does not apply to domestic premises, however as asbestos has been used in the construction of houses and flats, the presence of asbestos should be determined before any works are undertaken.