Preventing asbestosis 

Although asbestos is no longer widely used in the UK, it's still important to take precautions to reduce your risk of exposure, because it's still found in many old buildings.

Strict regulations were introduced in 1970 to regulate the use of asbestos in the workplace.

However, the import, supply and use of brown (amosite) and blue (crocidolite) asbestos was not banned in the UK until 1985. White asbestos (chrysotile) was banned in 1999, except for a small number of specialist uses of the material.

This means that buildings that were built or refurbished before the year 2000 could still contain asbestos.

Asbestos in your home

If you are concerned that your house may contain asbestos, you can seek advice from an environmental health officer at your local authority or council.

In these circumstances, it may be best to leave any asbestos-containing materials where they are – especially if they are in good condition and unlikely to get damaged. You should check the condition of the materials from time to time to make sure they haven't been damaged or started to deteriorate.

Slightly damaged asbestos-containing materials can sometimes be repaired by sealing or enclosing them. However, this should only be done by someone with the necessary training. Any badly-damaged asbestos material that cannot be protected should be removed by someone who is appropriately trained. Your local environmental health officer can advise you about this.

If you are planning any home improvements, repairs or maintenance, and you intend to bring in any additional workers or contractors, you should inform them of any asbestos materials in your home before they start work. This will help reduce the risks of any asbestos-containing material being disturbed.

You can search for who to contact about asbestos in your home on the GOV.UK website.

Asbestos in your workplace

If your job doesn't directly put you at risk of asbestos exposure, but you are concerned about asbestos in your workplace, speak to the building duty holder about what they are doing to monitor and manage the situation.

A duty holder is someone who is responsible for maintaining and repairing non-domestic premises.

If any asbestos-containing materials in your workplace are assessed as being in good condition, and not in a position where they are likely to be damaged, they will usually be left in place and monitored.

However, asbestos-containing materials that are in a poor condition or are likely to be damaged during the normal use of the building should be sealed, enclosed or removed as appropriate.

Working with asbestos

If your job means that you could potentially be exposed to asbestos fibres, make sure the appropriate precautions are taken before and during any work you do.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has drawn up the following checklist for employers, managers and traders to go through before carrying out work on a building that may contain asbestos:

  1. Identify whether asbestos is present and determine its type and condition  this may mean checking with the building manager or having the area surveyed.
  2. Carry out a risk assessment to determine whether it's possible to carry out the work, while avoiding the risk of asbestos exposure completely.
  3. Decide if the work needs to be carried out by a licensed contractor  the removal of certain types of asbestos-containing material will need to be done by a contractor holding a licence from the HSE.
  4. If the work is not licensable, decide if the work needs to be notified  some jobs require the relevant enforcing authority to be notified of what you are doing
  5. Ensure that those carrying out the work are suitably trained  any worker who may disturb asbestos during their daily work needs to receive appropriate training, so that they can protect themselves and others.

Steps that may help reduce your exposure to asbestos during your work include wearing protective equipment (such as a suitable face mask), cleaning up as you go (using a vacuum cleaner or wet rags, rather than sweeping) and not using power tools whenever possible.

Want to know more?

The HSE website has more information about:

You may also find it useful to read the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012), which outline the measures that should be in place to reduce the risk of asbestos exposure.

Read the full Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (PDF, 143kb).

Page last reviewed: 22/09/2014

Next review due: 22/09/2016