Asbestos - Your Questions

Last reviewed on 17/12/2012 15:55

Question: Do I have to remove all asbestos?

A: Asbestos is only a risk to health when it releases its fibres. Where the material is in good condition and in a location where it will not be disturbed, it may be better for it to be left in place and effectively managed.

Where asbestos materials are found to be in poor condition or are likely to be disturbed then you should first consider encapsulating, repairing or sealing damaged materials.

Where disturbance is an issue, consider reorganising the workplace to avoid the risk. Where this can be achieved, leave the materials in place, record their presence and manage them effectively.

It should be remembered that removal of asbestos that is in good condition and is not likely to be disturbed could give rise to unnecessary risk and expense. For this reason, removal should only be considered where there is no other safe alternative.

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Question: What should 'duty holders' do immediately about asbestos in our building?

A: Duty holders should:

  • check that their current arrangements for the management of asbestos within their premises are effective and are being applied properly
  • adopt a precautionary approach to maintenance work. Until a proper assessment has been carried out of their premises they must assume that all materials being worked on contain asbestos, adopting the standards set out in 'Asbestos Essentials' (for links to this and other resources see the information section of our asbestos page)
  • alternatively they can carry out a 'mini survey' of the material being worked on before the work is done
  • carry out an initial inspection of the premises to look for serious damage and disturbance of material and take effective remedial action as necessary.

The HSE provides extensive information on asbestos, including factsheets for workers and guides for safety representatives. All are available to download free from the HSE Asbestos Information page (external site).

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Question: How do I engage the services of an asbestos contractor?

A: The Health and Safety Executive's ‘Comprehensive guidance on managing asbestos’ (HSG 227) provides useful tips on the tendering and contracting surveyors and licensed contractors.

The information includes the things to look for to help you ensure that a contractor has the competences to provide you with the most appropriate service.

A list of asbestos contractors can be found on the Health and Safety Executive's Asbestos Pages (external site).

Lists of accredited surveyors and laboratories can be obtained through the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (external site).

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Question: We're refurbishing a factory. What information should I look for about disturbing asbestos?

A: All duty holders have a duty to identify and manage Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) in non-domestic premises. Duty holders include all those with responsibility for maintenance and repairs on non-domestic premises. The person in control of the premises could be the owner, landlord or employer using the premises.

Those in control of premises should:

  • determine the location and condition of any ACMs, presume that materials contain asbestos unless there is evidence that they do not
  • make a record of the location and condition of ACMs in the premises
  • assess the risks of how likely anyone is to be exposed to fibres from ACMs
  • have in place a plan on how the risks will be managed, and take steps to put in place and action a management plan
  • provide information on the location and condition of ACMs to anyone likely to work on or disturb them.

You should ask to see the ACM register, which should contain details of where any ACMs may be located and the chances of disturbing them during the work.

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Question: What kind of work creates asbestos dust?

A: Some processes or products give off dust more easily than others, but work on any of the following activities is likely to produce some asbestos dust or fibre release:

  • the removal (stripping) of old asbestos insulation materials from buildings or machinery (this creates lots of dust and should be carried out by a registered contractor)
  • the manufacture of products wholly or partly made from raw asbestos, e.g. asbestos textiles
  • the installation, maintenance, repair and general handling of products containing asbestos, e.g. asbestos cement products, insulating board, friction materials such as brake pads and clutch linings
  • the removal of roofing felts, old floor tiles, textured paints and plasters containing asbestos
  • some installation, repair and maintenance work by plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.

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