Asbestos in the workplace
Asbestos can be found in any building built before the year 2000, including houses, factories, offices, schools and hospitals.
The duty to manage asbestos falls to those responsible for protecting others who work in such premises, or use them in other ways, from the risks to ill health that exposure to asbestos causes.
To ensure that risks are minimised, you must follow the five steps:
Identify whether your premises contains asbestos-containing materials (ACMs): To be safe, if you identify materials that may be asbestos you should assume they are. If a material needs sampling to check whether it is an ACM, you should use a suitable contractor or suitably trained people.
Assess the condition of ACMs: If they're in poor condition they should be repaired, sealed, enclosed or removed. Record where the asbestos (or presumed asbestos) is and its condition: If there are any areas in your premises you cannot examine, such as the roof, you should record this.
Assess the risk from ACMs:
- Are people working at or near ACMs?
- Are they likely to disturb the ACMs?
- What action is required to manage and control the potential risks?
Prepare and implement an asbestos management plan to manage the risks: As a general guide, if the ACM is in good condition, isn't likely to be damaged and isn't likely to be worked on or disturbed, it's usually safer to leave it in place and manage it. If the ACM is in poor condition, or is likely to be damaged or disturbed, you'll need to decide whether to repair it, seal it, enclose it or remove it. If you're unsure, seek specialist advice from an asbestos surveyor, a laboratory or a licensed contractor. The food and safety team will become involved when we're notified that asbestos is to be removed from premises where we're the enforcing authority. In addition, if we come across premises that contain asbestos, or are suspected of containing asbestos and no action has been taken to manage it, enforcement action may be taken.
Full health and safety advice about asbestos can be found on the HSE website.
Asbestos in the home
Asbestos can be found in any house or building built before the year 2000 as it was widely used in a variety of building materials.
If asbestos materials are in good condition, and in a place where they're unlikely to be disturbed, they shouldn't cause any harm. It's only when the materials are damaged or disturbed, releasing fibres, that asbestos can become a danger.
Ways to minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos in your home:
- Make sure that anything you think may contain asbestos remains in good condition
- Don't drill, sand or scrape anything you think may contain asbestos
- Always soak wallpaper before removing. If possible, use a steam stripper and gently peel away the paper before re-decorating
- Don't try to remove textured coatings from ceilings or walls. Wash any areas of flaking paint before re-painting
- Don't try to remove old floor tiles or linoleum. Leave them in place and lay new floor coverings over them
Asbestos cement sheeting
This is commonly found as grey corrugated or flat sheets. It's thin and brittle and produces a clean edge when broken. It contains a small amount of asbestos encapsulated within cement, which, in good condition, isn't normally a health risk.
Asbestos fibres are released when the cement sheeting becomes broken or is drilled, sawn, scrubbed or sanded. The fibres can then become airborne, which can be easily inhaled and damage the lungs. Asbestos fibres are known to cause a cancer which in all cases kills.
Any work on asbestos cement garages may generate airborne asbestos fibres.
Other types of asbestos
Other asbestos products that tend to be found in the home include:
- Insulation board
- Asbestolux plasterboard
- Insulation surrounding warm air heating systems
These products pose a greater health risk because of where they're found and the type of asbestos involved.
To minimise risk to your family’s health, we strongly recommend that you contact a suitably qualified, licensed asbestos removal contractor for advice.
Guidance for some simple tasks:
- Drilling holes in asbestos cement and other highly bonded materials
- Removing asbestos cement sheets, gutters, etc and dismantling a small asbestos cement structure
- Cleaning debris from guttering on an asbestos cement roof
- Removing asbestos-containing floor tiles and mastic
Further, less common task sheets can be found on the HSE website.
Where to dispose of bonded asbestos
You can dispose of small amounts of wrapped asbestos at designated household waste recycling centres. A list of sites and conditions for accepting asbestos can be found on the North Yorkshire County Council website.
If you use a skip company instead, you'll need to ensure the company is willing to take the asbestos waste. The company will also need to provide you with a valid consignment note and be a registered carrier of waste. Further information is available on the Environment Agency website.
If you don't feel confident doing the work yourself, we recommend that you contact a licensed asbestos removal contractor for advice.
A list of qualified contractors is available from these trade associations:
We don't provide an asbestos identification service. You'll need to contact a company/laboratory that can carry out the testing for you. We're unable to recommend anyone.