Asbestos is a highly dangerous, naturally occurring substance that has been used extensively in the construction industry for the past 150 years. Unfortunately, inhalation of asbestos fibres can lead to the development of lung cancer, mesothelioma (a rare but highly dangerous cancer of the lung lining), pleural disease and asbestosis. Management of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) is governed by numerous legislations, including the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 which came into force on the 6th April 2012. In simple terms, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 establishes whose duty it is to manage asbestos. Furthermore, it sets out the steps that this duty holder must take in managing the risks of asbestos exposure.

Who is the Duty Holder?

In order to fulfil the requirements of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, the duty holder must first be identified. A duty holder can come in many shapes and sizes, including:

  • The building owner
  • The person in control of the building
  • Those responsible for the building’s maintenance and repair

The duty holder may be stated in the tenancy or lease agreement. Duty may be shared over a number of individuals or may fall to one nominated duty holder.

How to be Compliant with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

Here are eight steps that facilitate compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012:

  • Identify the duty holder.
  • Decide whether asbestos is likely to be present in the building or not (if the building was built after 2000 asbestos is unlikely to be present and no further action is required).
  • See whether there is an asbestos survey available, which would tell you where asbestos is within the building.
  • Identify where asbestos is present through an asbestos survey. At this point it is useful to have an awareness of where asbestos is usually found within buildings and involvement of a specialist is likely to be required.
  • If asbestos is identified, this must be recorded in an asbestos register. Information must include where the ACMs are, their condition and whose responsibility it is to manage them. This register should be safe but readily accessible.
  • You must now decide what action should be taken and draw up an asbestos management plan. Such action may range from leaving the ACM in place with careful labelling and management to repairing or removing it entirely.
  • Inform workers in the building of the presence of asbestos.
  • Regularly update and review the asbestos register and the management plan.

Why are the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 Important?

Current estimates suggest that more than 5000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases in the UK alone. The nature of asbestos exposure and damage means that these diseases typically occur decades after the initial asbestos exposure, when it is already far too late to intervene. This means that preventing asbestos exposure in the first place is the most effective way to combat asbestos-related diseases. In addition to this ethical duty, duty holders have a legal obligation to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Breaching asbestos regulations may result in crippling fines, not to mention a massive loss of reputation. For example, Kent City Council incurred a £200,000 fine in 2018 for improper management of asbestos in a primary school. The council held their hands up and confessed failure to ensure adequate instruction, information and training to its employees. This failure to comply with asbestos legislation endangered pupils and staff alike. Although asbestos management can be complicated, asbestos training courses can help to achieve the required knowledge and skills. Not only does this facilitate compliance with the law, but it also serves to protect those working with ACMs from the avoidable health risks of asbestos exposure.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 came into force on 6th April 2015, replacing the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007. The legislation was introduced with the aim of protecting people from the risks of construction work through implementing systematic frameworks of risk management. Importantly, this legislation places responsibility on all those who are working on a building to manage health and safety risks, including: the designers, the construction team, those in charge of maintenance and any other contractors. This is particularly important in regard to asbestos, as asbestos containing materials (ACMs) can easily be disturbed in construction and refurbishment projects. Disturbing asbestos releases fibres which can easily be inhaled, risking the development of serious diseases and in some cases death.

Individual Duties

Firstly, anybody working on a project has a duty to report to their senior if they become aware of any health and safety risk, whether it relates to them or to anyone else. Designers (and namely the principal designer) are responsible for health and safety in the pre-construction phase. This means that construction can be carried out without risks to health and safety, as far as possible. Designers must consider the health and safety of:

  • Those carrying out the construction work
  • Anybody else who is likely to be affected by the construction work
  • Those cleaning or maintaining the structure
  • Anyone that will be using the structure as a workplace.

Where these risks cannot be eliminated, they should be reduced or at least controlled. Additionally, information about any health and safety risks must be provided to the principal designer as well as included in the health and safety file. Contractors have important roles in making and upholding the construction health and safety plan and the health and safety file, which we will explore next.

Construction Phase Health and Safety Plan & Health and Safety File

A construction health and safety plan should include: health and safety arrangements, site rules, and specific measures regarding industrial activities on the site. It must be drawn up by the principal contractor with assistance from the principal designer, before the construction site is set up. The plan should be reviewed, updated and revised throughout the period of construction work.

The health and safety file should contain any information regarding the project that may be required in future projects to protect the health and safety of any person. The file should be complied by the principal designer during the pre-construction phase and reviewed, updated and revised regularly. The principal contractor should supply the principal designer with any relevant information throughout the project so the file can be updated accordingly.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 and Asbestos

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material which has been used in the construction industry for many years. Thankfully its use is now banned, but a vast array of UK buildings still contain the hazardous substance. Inhalation of asbestos fibres can result in the development of lung cancer, mesothelioma (cancer of the lung lining), asbestosis and pleural disease. Regarding asbestos, it is of paramount importance that any information about ACMs is passed on to designers and contractors. It should be included in both the construction health and safety plan and the health and safety file.

Why are the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 Important?

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 promote communication between the designers, contractors and the client, which facilitates formation of clear and unambiguous health and safety management plans. As mentioned earlier, exposure to asbestos can result in the formation of serious disease and lead to considerable suffering and loss of life. In the light of this information, health and safety should be at the forefront of our minds during both planning and construction. Promoting a health and safety compliance culture is crucial as adhering to the regulations is the law. Engaging in health and safety training courses can help equip us all with the knowledge and skills required to implement safe practices.

Employers are legally required to provide asbestos training to workers. Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states that “every employer must ensure that any employee employed by that employer is given adequate information, instruction and training”. This obligation is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which acts as the governing body for occupational health and safety across the UK. Asbestos is a highly dangerous material which can be found in abundance within UK infrastructure and beyond. Asbestos exposure can result in the development of cancer and other dangerous diseases. Exposure has resulted in significant suffering and loss of life. Alarmingly, the HSE estimate that around 20 people die every week due to asbestos-related diseases. Therefore, the provision of asbestos training is a moral responsibility as much as a legal one.

Who Requires Asbestos Training?

Asbestos training should be given to all employees who are likely to disturb asbestos in their normal work and to those who supervise them. Workers who are likely to require asbestos training include: maintenance workers, painters and decorators, plasterers, electricians, plumbers, construction workers, roofers, gas fitters and building surveyors, amongst many more. Self-employed workers should make sure that they complete an appropriate level of training when working with asbestos. Not only does this offer them protection from asbestos exposure but it also ensures that their work is not putting the public at any unnecessary risk.

What Should be Covered in Asbestos Training?

It is important to select a training provider that covers all the necessary aspects of asbestos awareness and management. Legally, training must include information on the following areas:

  • How to recognise asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs).
  • What to do when asbestos or ACMs are encountered in order to avoid inhaling disturbed asbestos fibres.
  • The health risks of asbestos exposure.
  • How asbestos exposure increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer and how this risk is multiplied by smoking.
  • How to work safely with asbestos, including control measures and the use of protective equipment.
  • What to do in an emergency involving sudden asbestos exposure.

Section 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulation 2012 states that “information, instruction and training must be given at regular intervals”. This highlights the need for regular refreshers. Not only does this allow employees to keep up to date with the latest advances in asbestos management, but also raises awareness and keeps safe practices at the forefront of workers’ minds.

Why is Asbestos Training Important?

Providing asbestos training is an easy way for employers to protect their workers’ health and simultaneously fulfil their legal duties. As well as equipping workers with vital information, engagement with regular asbestos training raises awareness of asbestos risks and how they can be mitigated. Employers have a duty of care to their employees. Workers should be armed them with the knowledge and skills to protect their own health, and the health of the general public. If asbestos exposure occurs on-site and employers are found not to be providing vital asbestos training, massive fines may be incurred.

Related Courses

In brief, how long an asbestos training certificate lasts varies greatly and depends upon the training provider. Asbestos is a naturally occurring, but highly dangerous, fibre that was used extensively in the construction industry before the turn of the millennium. Unfortunately, is has since been discovered that asbestos inhalation can cause lung cancer, pleural disease, mesothelioma and asbestosis. Due to the widespread use of asbestos we are still surrounded by the dangerous substance. Therefore, those who complete demolition, refurbishment, installation and maintenance works on buildings built before 2000 require knowledge of how to mitigate this risk. Asbestos training can help to raise awareness of the dangers that asbestos poses. It also empowers employees to act safely when confronted with the dangerous substance. Many training providers issue a certificate upon completion of an asbestos training course, but the length of time that they are valid for varies significantly.
What is an Asbestos Awareness Certificate?
It is important to stress that an asbestos awareness certificate is not a legal document and being in possession of one is not required by law. It is simply an acknowledgment from a training provider that an employee has undergone asbestos training. In fact, not all training providers choose to issue a certificate. Whilst it can be included in an employee’s health and safety training portfolio, a certificate is not required. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) clarified that whilst asbestos training is a legal requirement, being in possession of a certificate after training is not.

Who Requires Asbestos Training?
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (regulation 10) highlights the need for employers to provide employees with “adequate information, instruction and training” on asbestos. This training should be provided to any employee who is likely to disturb asbestos through their normal work and additionally to those who supervise them. Certain occupations are more likely to be exposed to asbestos than others, including maintenance workers, decorators, electricians, plumbers and plasterers. Importantly, self-employed individuals are not exempt from this requirement and must also undertake asbestos training.
How Long does an Asbestos Awareness Certificate Last?
Essentially, this depends on the training provider. Some certificates have no expiry date at all, whilst others do. Many certificates have a one-year expiry date. However, once the certificate has expired this is not to say that the employee will need to undergo full asbestos training again; a brief refresher may in fact be enough. Keeping asbestos training up-to-date is crucial as it raises asbestos awareness and ensures that the constantly evolving legislation is adhered to.

Related Courses

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre with numerous useful properties, including fire resistance, chemical resistance and waterproofing abilities. Considering these properties, it is easy to see why asbestos was used so widely throughout the construction industry prior to the turn of the millennium. However, with time came the alarming realisation that asbestos was a highly dangerous and carcinogenic material. Tragically, asbestos exposure can result in lung cancer, mesothelioma (a rare but very serious cancer of the lung lining), pleural disease and asbestosis. A horrifying number of people have lost their lives to the health complications of asbestos exposure. For this reason, work with asbestos and asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) is now tightly regulated by an expanse of legislation. Here are a few of the commonly encountered asbestos containing materials (ACMs): cladding, insulation boards, roof shingles, tiles and textiles.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 outlines the way in which ACMs must be managed. The regulations outline who is the designated duty holder for the ACMs and sets out their responsibilities. Duty holders come in a range of shapes and sizes, including building owners, the person in control of a building and those responsible for a building’s maintenance and repair. Once identified, the duty holder has a range of responsibilities, which are summarised below.

  • Determining the likelihood of encountering asbestos in the building.
  • Completing an asbestos survey.
  • Recording any identified ACMs in an asbestos register.
  • Deciding on and undertaking necessary action to address risks.
  • Providing information to those at risk.
  • Regularly reviewing and updating the asbestos register and management plan.

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 does not exclusively cover asbestos, but instead spans a range of occupational risks. The Act outlines the responsibilities of employers, self-employed and premises controllers in protecting the health and safety of employers and others. The Act also brought about introduction of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) which has regulated occupational health and safety across the UK for over 40 years. The first part of the Act is largely about identifying responsibility, which extends to employers, contractors, suppliers, designers, manufacturers, importers and employees.

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Whilst the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 largely focused on identifying responsibility, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 tackle risk head on. The Act promotes risk assessment and highlights the need for health and safety training. It also stresses the importance of conducting regular and extensive risk assessments, concentrating on all risks posed to employees whilst at work and additionally any risks posed to non-employees through the work. The provision of health and safety training is identified as a fundamental way to mitigate risk, protecting employers and employees alike. Helpfully, the Act includes a list of prevention principles which include risk avoidance, evaluations and tackling a risk at its source.

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 concentrate on the implementation of systematic framework as a way of reducing risk. The Act extends risk to all those who are working on a building, namely the designers, suppliers and construction team. It is the explicit duty of anyone working on a project to report to their senior if they become aware of any health and safety risks; this immediate escalation should help to nip risks in the bud before harm occurs. Creating a health and safety plan and file is useful in documenting risk, who it affects and what is being done about this. These resources can easily change hands and be made available to all who need them. Passing knowledge of risk and risk assessment between professionals helps to achieve transparency and safety, which is in the best interest of us all.

Why is Asbestos Legislation Important?

In light of the abundance of asbestos legislation we’ve covered, it is clear that asbestos is a matter of national and in fact international importance. This is largely since asbestos exposure has resulted in an inordinate amount of unnecessary deaths around the world. Simple yet effective measures can and must be implemented to reduce the amount of people exposed to the hazardous fibres. Asbestos awareness and training are pivotal tools in ensuring asbestos risks are kept to a minimum, therefore avoiding unnecessary suffering and deaths.