What Are The Current Asbestos Regulations?

Asbestos was once widely used in various industries in the UK due to its natural properties, including its strength and heat resistance. However, the health risks associated with asbestos exposure are severe, with strong evidence linking it to diseases such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other related illnesses.

To protect individuals from the dangers of asbestos, the use of this hazardous substance was banned in the UK in 1999. Despite the ban, many buildings, both residential and commercial, still encompass asbestos-containing materials. These materials can pose a significant risk when they are disturbed as the asbestos fibres can become airborne and easily inhaled, leading to long-term health complications.

To address the risks associated with asbestos, regulations and laws were implemented to govern its handling and management. These regulations aim to ensure the safe handling, removal, and disposal of asbestos-containing materials, as well as to protect individuals from exposure to asbestos in the workplace and in domestic premises. Understanding and complying with these regulations is crucial to prevent further asbestos-related illnesses and protect the health and safety of workers and the general public.

In this blog, we’ll explore the current asbestos regulations in the UK and provide an overview of their key provisions and requirements. We’ll also take a look at the responsibilities of employers, employees, and duty holders in ensuring compliance with these regulations and highlight the potential legal implications for non-compliance. First let’s take a brief look at the different types of asbestos.

What are the different types of asbestos?

Asbestos is a group of six occurring fibrous minerals that have been widely used in various industries. The six types of asbestos are:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos)
  • Amosite (brown asbestos)
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
  • Tremolite
  • Actinolite
  • Anthophyllite

These minerals have different physical properties and levels of fibre strength. Chrysotile, the most commonly used type of asbestos, accounts for approximately 95% of asbestos used worldwide. It has been widely used in insulation, roofing materials, and other building products. Amosite and crocidolite were primarily used in insulation materials and cement products. While the use of asbestos has been banned in the UK, it is still legal and widely used in many countries around the world, particularly in developing countries.

The history of asbestos regulation

Asbestos was widely used in the UK throughout the 20th century, however, the health risks associated with exposure to asbestos became evident over time, leading to increased regulation and ultimately a ban on its use. The use of blue and brown asbestos was banned in 1985, while the use of white asbestos was brought into force in 1999.

The regulation of asbestos in the UK has evolved over time, with key milestones marking significant developments in asbestos control and management. Some of these key milestones include the introduction of the Asbestos Regulations 1969, which established control measures for asbestos use, and the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1987, which introduced specific requirements for asbestos-related work.

Over time, the historical context of asbestos use and regulation highlights the progression of understanding and awareness regarding the danger of asbestos. The current asbestos regulations in the UK reflect the lessons learned from past asbestos-related incidents and aims to protect individuals from further harm.

What are the current asbestos regulations in the UK?

The UK implemented comprehensive asbestos regulations to protect individuals from the risks associated with asbestos exposure. These regulations provide guidelines for managing asbestos-containing materials and ensuring the safety of workers and the general public.

The current asbestos regulations in the UK are known as the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. These regulations outline the legal duties and responsibilities of employers, employees, and duty holders in relation to the management of asbestos in the workplace and in domestic premises. They also provide a comprehensive framework for the safe handling, removal, and disposal of asbestos-containing materials.

The regulations incorporate an approved code of practice, which provides practical guidance on compliance with the regulations. This code of practice applies to a wide range of premises and activities, including domestic and commercial premises, and construction and maintenance work involving asbestos-containing materials.

Understanding and complying with these regulations is essential for ensuring the safety of workers and any individual in relation to asbestos exposure.

What are the requirements of the current asbestos regulations?

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 set out several main provisions and requirements for the safe management of asbestos. These include the duty to manage asbestos, the requirement for an asbestos survey and risk assessment, and the duty to provide information, instruction, and training to employees and workers. More on this a little later.

The regulations also establish a control limit for asbestos exposure and require the use of effective controls and protective measures when working with asbestos. Compliance with these provisions and requirements is essential for ensuring the safe handling and management of asbestos-containing materials and preventing exposure to asbestos fibres.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the enforcing authority responsible for ensuring compliance. They are responsible for regulating and promoting the safe management of asbestos in the workplace and domestic properties. The HSE has the power to inspect premises, issue enforcement notices, and prosecute individuals or organisations that fail to comply with the regulations.

They also provide information and resources to raise awareness about asbestos-related risks and promote good practices in asbestos management. Employers, employees, and duty holders should work closely with the HSE to ensure compliance with asbestos regulations and protect the health and safety of individuals.

What are the legal implications for non-compliance?

Non-compliance with current asbestos regulations can have serious legal implications for duty holders and employers. Failure to comply with asbestos regulations can result in fines, imprisonment, or both.

Employers have a duty to protect their employees and others from exposure to asbestos while at work and even in domestic properties. This includes carrying out risk assessments, implementing control measures, providing training and information, and monitoring the condition of asbestos-containing materials.

Duty holders, such as building owners, or those responsible for maintenance, have a duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic properties and ensure its safe condition. This includes identifying the presence of asbestos, assessing the risks, and providing information to workers and contractors.

Any duty holders who do not have an asbestos management plan in place, or fail to take reasonable steps to manage asbestos can be fined up to £20,000, or imprisoned for up to six months. A serious breach of the regulations can lead to an unlimited fine and/or a two-year prison sentence.

These legal implications highlight the importance of understanding and complying with current asbestos regulations to ensure the safety of individuals and prevent the occurrence of asbestos-related illnesses.

What do I need to do to remain compliant?

As we’ve mentioned previously, there are many requirements of the current asbestos regulations. Some of these requirements include:

  • Conducting an asbestos survey – these are an essential component of compliance with the regulations as they aim to identify the presence of asbestos in a property, assess the risks associated, and develop appropriate control measures. Here at Midlands Asbestos Solutions (MAS), we provide a comprehensive asbestos survey service including a Management Survey and a Refurbishment/Demolition Survey.
  • Ensuring safe work practices for asbestos management – it’s vital to ensure you have a proper asbestos management plan in place before carrying out any construction works to your property. This plan will outline how identified asbestos will be effectively managed and removed safely and legally.
  • Following specific PPE requirements – anyone working with asbestos must wear appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including disposable respirators or powered air-purifying respirators (PAPRs), disposable overalls or protective clothing, and disposable gloves and shoe covers. All PPE must be disposed of safely according to regulations and guidelines after handling asbestos.
  • Providing adequate asbestos training – proper training is mandatory and ensures individuals who are exposed to asbestos are equipped with the knowledge and skills to work safely and prevent exposure. Here at MAS, we provide a variety of comprehensive training courses to suit your needs and are suitable for large companies or sole traders.
  • Informing and instructing everyone involved – whether you’re an employer or a duty holder, it’s crucial to provide information and instructions to all who are exposed to asbestos. Information can include location and condition of identified asbestos, the associated risks of the asbestos, the plan for safe removal or management of the asbestos, and the safe work practices that are in place.

Understanding these requirements and ensuring you are fulfilling them is essential for complying with Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, as well as safeguarding the health and well-being of all individuals exposed to asbestos.

Speak to us today for more information

In summary, understanding and complying with current asbestos regulations are crucial to safeguarding health and ensuring legal adherence. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 outlines key provisions for managing asbestos exposure and by prioritising asbestos training and protective measures, organisations can mitigate hazards and maintain regulatory compliance.

If you would like to learn more about the current asbestos regulations, or you’d like more guidance on your responsibilities, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our asbestos management experts.

Asbestos regulation FAQs

Who needs to comply with the asbestos regulations?

The current asbestos regulations apply to employers, employees, construction workers, those who manage the maintenance of non-domestic premises, and anyone who is exposed to asbestos-containing materials. There is also a duty to manage asbestos in domestic premises too.

Why is asbestos regulated?

Asbestos has been linked to serious health issues, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. Regulations aim to minimise exposure to asbestos fibres, which can be released into the air when materials containing asbestos are disturbed or deteriorate.

What should I do if I suspect asbestos in my property?

If you suspect asbestos-containing materials may be present in your building, it’s important to have them inspected by a qualified professional like Midlands Asbestos Solutions. If asbestos is found, proper measures should be taken to manage or remove it safely.

Is asbestos removal mandatory?

Asbestos removal may be mandatory in certain situations, especially if the material is damaged or poses a risk of exposure. However, in some cases, managing the asbestos in place (e.g. encapsulation) may be an acceptable alternative. Asbestos removal should only be performed by licensed and trained professionals, like MAS.