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Information on asbestos

Asbestos guidance

Asbestos at work

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

Risks of asbestos exposure

When left in place it poses little risk, however if it is disturbed and fibre’s 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 fibre’s 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.

Asbestos in the home

How can you identify asbestos products?

The supplier or manufacturer of a building material or appliance may be able to tell you whether it contains asbestos.

If you are unsure if a product contains asbestos, you could arrange for a sample to be tested, or treat suspect products as if they contain asbestos. Firms that analyse products for asbestos are generally listed in telephone directories under "laboratories" or "analytical research chemists". Alternatively, you could contact UKAS by email or call on 020 8917 8400 for information on accredited bodies.

If you employ trades persons to work on your home, you must inform them of your suspicions / knowledge relating to the presence of asbestos.

Where is asbestos used in homes?

Asbestos can be found in a variety of articles within the home from garage roofs and guttering to ironing boards. The HSE Asbestos website provides further information about common forms / locations within the home.

What should you do if asbestos is discovered?

Check the materials are in good condition and not worn or damaged. In many cases, Asbestos materials in good condition may be left in place.

If asbestos material is damaged or the surface has begun to erode it should be treated or removed.

The Health and Safety Executive provide a variety of essential task sheets relating to the identification, treatment and removal of asbestos.

What should you do with asbestos waste?

You cannot dispose of asbestos waste within your council bin or waste recycling centre.

Although you can arrange to transfer asbestos waste to a disposal site yourself, due to the requirements imposed, many find use of a licensed contractor as cost effective and less complicated.

Should you wish to transport asbestos waste to a licensed site yourself, a waste transfer licence is required. Please contact the Environment Agency for further information.

Where can you get further advice?

The manufacturer, installer or retailer of equipment may be able to advise whether it contains asbestos, and recommend remedial measures.

You can download guidance notes on asbestos, published by the Health and Safety Executive. Hard copies are available for purchase from HSE Books Tel: 01787 881165.

Further information can be obtained from the HSE asbestos page.