Introduction to asbestos

You can help us improve our website by completing a short survey.

Go to survey

Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK.

As long as asbestos is in good condition and is not disturbed or damaged there is negligible risk. However, if it is disturbed or damaged, it can become a danger to health, because asbestos fibres are released into the air and people may breathe them in.

Although it is now illegal to use asbestos in the construction or refurbishment of any premises, many thousands of tonnes of it were used in the past in such things as:

Much of this material is still in place. However, buildings constructed after 2000 are unlikely to contain asbestos materials.

Managing asbestos in buildings

If you are responsible for the maintenance and repair of non-domestic premises, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 require you to:

Do not:

Working with materials containing asbestos

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 apply to all types of work involving asbestos and materials containing asbestos. They place specific duties on employers and the self-employed.

You must find out if materials containing asbestos are present. If possible, before you start, plan any work to avoid disturbing these materials.

If you have to carry out work which may disturb materials containing asbestos, you must prevent exposure to asbestos fibres. Or where this is not reasonably practicable, reduce any exposure to as low as reasonably practicable by using appropriate control measures and having management systems in place.

Anyone who is going to work on material containing asbestos must be suitably trained and supervised.

Higher-risk work, such as most asbestos removal, must only be undertaken by a licensed contractor, but any decision on whether particular work is licensable is based on an assessment of the risk.

The law

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 require dutyholders to take action to prevent workers' exposure to asbestos at work.