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Asbestos information, instruction and training

Every employer must make sure that anyone who is liable to disturb asbestos during their normal work, or who supervises those employees, gets the correct level of information, instruction and training so that they can work safely and competently without risk to themselves or others.

What type of information, instruction and training is necessary?

Workers and supervisors must be able to recognise asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and know what to do if they come across them in order to protect themselves and others.

There are three main levels of information, instruction and training. These relate to:

  • Asbestos awareness
  • Non-licensable work with asbestos including NNLW
  • Licensable work with asbestos.

Attending a training course on its own will not make a worker competent. Competence is developed over time by implementing and consolidating skills learnt during training, on-the-job learning, instruction and assessment.

It is important that the level of information, instruction and training is appropriate for the work and the roles undertaken by each worker (and supervisor). Using a training needs analysis (TNA) will help to identify what topics should be covered to ensure workers have the right level of competence to avoid putting themselves or others at risk.

Examples of workers affected

Examples of those affected are listed below. There will be other occupations where asbestos may be disturbed in addition to those listed:

  • General maintenance workers
  • Electricians
  • Plumbers
  • Joiners
  • Painters and decorators
  • Plasterers
  • Construction workers
  • Roofers
  • Shop fitters
  • Gas fitters
  • Heating and ventilation engineers
  • Demolition workers
  • Telecommunication engineers
  • Fire/burglar alarm installers
  • Computer and data installers
  • Architects
  • Building surveyors

Asbestos awareness

Information, instruction and training for asbestos awareness is intended to give workers and supervisors the information they need to avoid work that may disturb asbestos during any normal work which could disturb the fabric of a building, or other item which might contain asbestos. It will not prepare workers, or self-employed contractors, to carry out work with asbestos-containing materials. If a worker is planning to carry out work that will disturb ACMs, further information, instruction and training will be needed.

Information, instruction and training about asbestos awareness should cover the following:

  • the properties of asbestos and its effects on health, including the increased risk of developing lung cancer for asbestos workers who smoke;
  • the types, uses and likely occurrence of asbestos and asbestos materials in buildings and plant;
  • the general procedures to deal with an emergency, e.g. an uncontrolled release of asbestos dust into the workplace;
  • how to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos.

Online learning (often referred to as e–learning) is increasingly used as a method of providing asbestos awareness training. HSE recognises the use of e-learning as a viable delivery method, among others, for asbestos awareness training, provided it satisfies the requirements of Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and the supporting Approved Code of Practice L143 'Managing and working with asbestos'.

Workers who plan to carry out work that will disturb asbestos require a higher level of information, instruction and training, in addition to asbestos awareness. This should take account of whether the work is non-licensed; notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW); or licensed work and should be job specific.

Non-licensable work, including Notifiable Non-licensed Work (NNLW)

Workers who may need this level of information, instruction and training include those listed under asbestos awareness above and whose work will require them to disturb asbestos-containing materials, such as:

  • drilling holes in asbestos materials (including for sampling and analysis purposes)
  • laying cables in areas containing undamaged asbestos materials;
  • removing asbestos-containing floor tiles
  • cleaning or repairing asbestos cement sheet roofing or cladding

The information, instruction and training for non-licensable work with asbestos, including NNLW, should cover the following:

  • how to make suitable and sufficient assessments about the risk of exposure to asbestos;
  • safe work practices and control measures, including an explanation of the correct use of control measures, protective equipment and work methods;
  • selection and appropriate use of protective equipment;
  • waste handling procedures;
  • emergency procedures;
  • relevant legal requirements; and
  • circumstances when non-licensed work may be notifiable (ie NNLW).

This is not a complete list.  The information, instruction and training should be appropriate to the work being done and should be tailored accordingly.

Employers should also make sure that workers  doing non-licensable work or NNLW have seen:

  • a copy of the risk assessment for that work;
  • a copy of the plan of work;
  • where applicable, details and results of any air monitoring, including results for similar work.

In addition, the following information should be given to workers, on request:

  • maintenance records for control measures;
  • their own personal information from health records;
  • the results of any face-fit test (FFT) for RPE provided for work with asbestos;
  • a copy of the individual’s training record.

Important – This level of information, instruction and training is not sufficient for licensable work with asbestos. 

Licensable work with asbestos

Most work with higher risk asbestos-containing materials must be carried out by licensed contractors. Only competent workers and managers, provided with suitable information instruction and training and using appropriate respiratory and other protective equipment, may undertake licensed asbestos work. Further information on providing information instruction and training for licensable work can be found in The licensed contractors' guide HSG 247 and the Approved Code of Practice L143 Managing and working with asbestos.

Employers should also make the following information available to workers doing licensable work with asbestos: For the specific work being done:

  • a copy of the risk assessment for that work;
  • a copy of the plan of work;
  • details of any air monitoring and results;
  • details of notification of work made to the enforcing authority.

General information

  • maintenance records for control measures;
  • the individual’s own personal information from health records;
  • the results of any face-fit test for RPE provided for work with asbestos;
  • a copy of the licence;
  • any anonymised collective information from the health records.

Refreshing information, instruction and training on asbestos awareness

Information instruction and training on asbestos awareness is merely intended to help workers avoid carrying out work that will disturb asbestos. There is no legal requirement to repeat an entire formal awareness refresher training course every 12 months. However some form of refresher should be given, as necessary, to help ensure knowledge of asbestos awareness is maintained.

Refresher awareness could be given as e-learning or as part of other health and safety updates, rather than through a formal training course. For example, an employer, manager or supervisor who has attended an awareness course and who is competent to do so, could deliver an update or safety talk to employees in house.

A realistic, commonsense approach to refreshing knowledge and skills, based on judgement of individual abilities and training needs is all that is usually required.

There is no need for employees who have received training for licensable or non-licensable work to do the lower level awareness refresher training.

Refreshing information, instruction and training for licensable and non-licensable work including Notifiable Non-licensed Work (NNLW)

Refreshing information instruction and training for licensable and non-licensable work should be appropriate to the work each worker is doing and be based on training needs analysis (TNA) that will help to decide what is needed. For example, for those found to have extensive training needs, this may involve classroom teaching or practical training.  For others, information instruction and training could be given as part of other health and safety updates or, for example, as part of a toolbox talk or e-learning to refresh experienced workers on the main principles and expectations.

Refresher information, instruction and training for licensable and non-licensable work should be provided every year, or more frequently if:
  • work methods change;
  • the type of equipment used to control exposure changes;
  • the type of work carried out changes significantly; or
  • gaps in competency are identified.

It should include reviewing where things have gone wrong and sharing good practice.

Where training needs analysis indicates, there should be an appropriate element of practical training, particularly covering decontamination procedures, use of RPE, FFT and controlled removal techniques.

Certificates of training

There is no legal requirement for employees to hold a certificate of training before they can work with asbestos.

Many training providers issue trainees with certificates. A certificate is not proof of competency to do the job, but where issued, a certificate shows the individual has had training and may be kept as part of an individuals training record. Where training certificates are provided they sometimes have an expiry date (e.g. after a year). Expiry does not always mean that ‘full’ retraining is mandatory, as a result.

Record keeping - licensable and non-licensable work with asbestos

A record of the information, instruction and training received by each individual should be kept to:

  • help employers carry out ongoing training needs analysis;
  • support individual workers in demonstrating their knowledge, skills and experience when they move from one employer to another; and
  • where applicable, comply with the licensing process.

Information, instruction and training for safety representatives

The information, instruction and training provided to safety representatives  and elected representatives of employees needs to be appropriate to their role.

Employers should consult safety representatives and elected representatives of employee safety in good time about the information, instruction and training they intend to provide.

Where the results of air monitoring show that the relevant control limit has been unexpectedly exceeded, employers should tell employees, safety representatives and elected representatives of employee health and safety about this as quickly as possible and give details of the reasons for what happened and the remedial action taken or proposed.

Information and instruction for non-employees

Employers who are working on asbestos in premises have a duty to make sure that, adequate information and instruction is given to those who are not employed by them but who are present in the premises and could be affected by the work.

This should include details of:

  • the location(s) where work is taking place, so people can avoid them;
  • possible risks from rearranging thoroughfares and fire exits as a result of the work being done;
  • any other information to help people avoid risks from the disturbance of asbestos-containing materials caused by the work being done.

Self employed workers

Self employed workers should make sure that they have the right level of information, instruction and training to protect themselves and make sure that others are not put at risk from their work activities.

Selecting a competent trainer

Important - Competent providers of information, instruction and training should have adequate practical experience in the asbestos sector and a theoretical knowledge of all relevant aspects of the work being carried out by the employee. It is the responsibility of the employer to determine whether a training provider is suitable or not.

How do I find a training provider?

Some of the training associations whose members provide training for working with asbestos are listed below. There are many other organisations that offer asbestos training. In providing links to the organisations listed below HSE is not endorsing the organisations, the content of their websites, or the products or services offered.

Updated 2014-07-01