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Asbestos in the Workplace

Breathing in asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos-related diseases, such as cancers of the lungs and chest, for which there is currently no cure.

If the asbestos is in good condition and is not being, or going to be, disturbed or damaged, there is no risk. If it is disturbed or damaged, it can be a danger to health, because asbestos fibres will be released into the air and breathed in.

Electricians or decorators working on your premises that drill, saw or cut material could potentially create a risk to themselves and others.

You are most likely to come across asbestos in these materials:

  • Sprayed asbestos and asbestos loose packing
  • Moulded lagging in thermal insulation of pipes and boilers
  • Insulating boards in fire protection and thermal insulation
  • Asbestos cement products
  • Some ceiling tiles
  • Gutters, rainwater pipes and water pipes

It is safer to assume that a material contains asbestos, unless there is strong evidence that it does not.

Employers have a duty to:

  • Identify asbestos in the premises, its amount and condition
  • Presume materials contain asbestos, unless there is strong evidence that they do not
  • Make, and keep up to date, a record of the location and condition of any asbestos-containing materials, or presumed asbestos-containing materials, in their premises
  • Assess the risk from the material
  • Prepare a plan that sets out in detail how to manage the risk from this material
  • Take steps needed to put the plan into action
  • Review and monitor the plan and the arrangements made to put it in place
  • Provide information on the location and conditions of the material to anyone who is liable to work on it or could inadvertently disturb it

A competent person can do some of this work, for example identification of the material. However, the employer has to be involved in the overall assessment of the potential risk, as it is the employer who will know how the premises are used, and what disturbance is likely to occur.

Only competent people such as laboratory analysts, suitably trained building surveyors or specialist asbestos removal contractors should conduct surveys.

 A survey will identify what type of asbestos is present and where it is. The risk assessment must also account for:

  • The condition of the material
  • The risk of it being disturbed
  • Arrangements to ensure information is passed on to staff and contractors working at the premises

A good strategy to manage asbestos-containing materials will help to prevent risk to workers or others who may use the premises, such as contractors and members of the public.