Asbestos Health and Safety

Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK. This site provides health and safety advice and guidance so that those who may be exposed to asbestos at work know what to do to protect themselves and others.

Duty on businesses and the management of Asbestos

Owners and occupiers of non-domestic* industrial, commercial or public premises such as factories, warehouses, offices, shops, hospitals and schools with maintenance and repair responsibilities have a duty to assess the building or site for asbestos and its condition and implement a management plan. This is done by:

  • Finding out if asbestos is present in the premises.
  • Making and maintaining a record of the location and condition of the asbestos or any materials which are presumed to contain asbestos.
  • Assessing the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified e.g staff, contractors, public.
  • Making an 'asbestos management plan' that sets out how the risks from these materials will be managed and regularly reviewing and monitoring the plan to check continued adequate arrangements are in place
  • Providing information on the location and condition of asbestos material to anyone who may come into contact with it such as building contractors, surveyors or architects.
  • Liaising with landlords who have a duty to pass on information to their tenants. Tenants must also cooperate with their landlord including allowing access to a building. 
  • Arranging for the safe and proper disposal of asbestos materials. Guidance can be found on the  Somerset Waste Partnership website.

* Non-domestic premises can also includes 'common' areas such as foyers, corridors, lifts and lift-shafts, staircases, roof spaces, gardens, yards, outhouses and garages.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

When asbestos fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases which are responsible for around 4500 deaths a year. There are four main diseases caused by asbestos: mesothelioma (which is always fatal), lung cancer (almost always fatal), asbestosis (not always fatal, but it can be very debilitating) and diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal).

Asbestos fibres are present in the environment in Great Britain so people are exposed to very low levels of fibres. However, a key factor in the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease is the total number of fibres breathed in. Working on or near damaged asbestos-containing materials or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres, which may be many hundreds of times that of environmental levels can increase your chances of getting an asbestos-related disease.

Someone inhaling asbestos fibres now won't be affected immediately but later on in life, so there is a need for you to protect yourself now to prevent you contracting an asbestos-related disease in the future. It is also important to remember that people who smoke and are also exposed to asbestos fibres are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer

Useful information

Health and Safety Executive advice: asbestos guidance and advice

Publications and leaflets are available from the Health and Safety Executive on telephone 01787 881165 or online at HSE Books website 

Disposal of Asbestos