UK Law And Asbestos

The United Kingdom’s asbestos law can be a little daunting so we have produced this simplified guide. However, we do urge you to call our asbestos helpline on for more detailed advice. This page primarily discusses the impact of the law and regulations about the presence of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and how to deal with them legally.

Asbestos in the United Kingdom is governed by The The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012: 2nd Edition 2013 (CAR 2012/2013).

However, there are two strands of legal responsibility with regard to asbestos in the UK. These affect people who have duty holder responsibilities, and those who have a more general ‘duty of care’. These have different consequences:

Duty holders. The The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012: 2nd Edition 2013 (CAR 2012/2013) confers a range of specific obligations on the individual duty holder. These include investigating for the presence of asbestos containing materials (ACMs), recording the findings, and implementing a management plan, and notifying all those involved during any refurbishment or demolition work. Additionally, there is a need to ensure that proper asbestos awareness training is given to staff who are likely to come into contact with ACMs. This primarily affects non-domestic property, but private property can sometimes be affected (see Categories of property likely to suggest duty holding responsibilities below. It is to helping these duty holders fulfil their legal obligations that AV Asbestos’s management services are primarily aimed. The other sections of this article mainly look at the requirements of being the duty holder.

Duty of care. The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 (HSWA) stipulates that people working in a premises have a duty of care to ensure the immediate and on-going safety of all others in it (including: employers, employees, those in control of the premises, others who are not directly employed, the public, etc. – whether or not for profit). These are wide-ranging and general responsibilities that cover all health and safety risks in the workplace, not just those from asbestos. ‘Asbestos’ is not specifically mentioned in the act. An example: a carpenter is contracted to put up some shelves in a shop, he or she needs to make sure that area is free from the risks of ACMs before drilling into any wall to secure the shelves. This is because he or she has a duty of care under HSWA not to risk the health of anyone using the building by releasing of asbestos fibres into the air. If any ACMs are present, precautions must be taken to ensure that safety is not compromised due to it. (Note: under CAR 2012/2013 the premises’ duty holder (see above) is also obligated to communicate the presence of any ACMs to the carpenter.)

Duty holders

The effect of The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012: 2nd Edition 2013 (CAR 2012/2013) revolves around whether or not a person has any ‘duty holder’ responsibilities under Section 4. Additionally there is a responsibility for ensuring asbestos awareness training in Section 10. Essentially, these regulations apply to non-domestic properties (given below); and so in the majority of cases, the duty-holder aspects of the regulations do not apply to private (domestic) property. However, even without legal obligation, it makes sense to follow the essence of them.

If you are responsible for the maintenance of a building then you are pretty much guaranteed to be the asbestos duty holder for that building. You maybe the owner, the leaseholder, landlord, a sub-letter, or a maintenance manager but the duty is the same.

Generally, there is likely to be only one duty holder who has been designated by all the parties involved.

They key sections are:

Section 4 (The duty holder)

As the duty holder:

  1. You must investigate your building to determine the whereabouts of any asbestos containing materials (ACMs); when access is impossible without destruction of the surrounding structure, the demolition required to do this may be deferred, but the presence of an ACM must be presumed.
  2. You must then record into an ‘asbestos register’ the location of any ACM that has been identified (whether actual or presumed), along with its type, its extent and condition, and potential risk. This should be always be shown to maintenance teams and visiting contractors. Depending upon the risk analysis, ACMs may be recommended for removal or encapsulation. Else if the material is in good condition and unlikely to be damaged or disturbed, then it may be better to leave it in place, and introduce a monitoring regime.
  3. Unless the property is entirely free from ACMs, it will be necessary to produce an on-going management plan. This will list the actions your intending to take in light of the survey results – maybe remove some items, encapsulate others, and just monitor the rest. All items left in situ, including any that are encapsulated, will have to be checked for deterioration in their condition, and the plan needs to detail this and assign responsibility for ensuring its implementation.

You may have in-house staff with the skills and knowledge to carry out these tasks. However, for most duty holders it will be cost effective and safer to commission a company like AV Asbestos to undertake both the surveying and the presentation of the asbestos register and management plan. If required, AV Asbestos will be happy to undertake all of the ongoing aspects of your asbestos management.

Duty holders should also constantly keep in mind that if they undertake major renovation work (knocking into partition walls, removing ceilings, etc.), a further more intrusive survey will be required (see The refurbishment and demolition survey).

Section 10 (Asbestos awareness)

This section highlights the requirement for asbestos awareness training for any staff likely to come across ACMs – typically maintenance staff, electricians, members of the IT department, etc.

Categories of property likely to suggest duty holding responsibilities

If you are responsible for a property that falls into the following, then you are likely to be the duty-holder – remember that you may be the duty-holder even if you do not own the property.

Non-domestic property

This property includes: offices, factories, shops, hotels, etc. As a rule: this includes anywhere that the public, employees, contractors, etc. may go.

The current legislation applying to asbestos in non-domestic premises is The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012: 2nd Edition 2013 (CAR 2012/2013). For most people the essential parts of the regulations are Sections 4 and 10 (see above). If you are a duty-holder for the property under Section 4, you should comply with the regulations; failure to do so may carry stiff penalties.

Apartment blocks and flats

Even though these may be thought of as being in the domestic realm, the regulations apply to the ‘common areas’ of such buildings.

Therefore, areas likely to be covered by the regulations will include any public or shared space including the: roof, attic space, stairways, corridors, boiler rooms, lift shafts, meter cupboards, etc.; as well as the outside of the building, and any shared out-buildings (for example, garages).

Buy to let

Owners of houses or flats that are let out on the basis that the owner maintains responsibility for repair and maintenance are also subject to the The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012: 2nd Edition 2013 (CAR 2012/2013). See non-domestic regulations above.

Types of survey required

There are two types of asbestos survey in current use. They are discussed in-depth on the surveying page.

  • The management survey.
    These are the foundation of the asbestos safety assessment and monitoring process; which is required by the The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012: 2nd Edition 2013 (CAR 2012/2013) regulations. Their results are used to assess a site’s asbestos risk.
  • The refurbishment and demolition survey.
    When the duty holder is considering refurbishment and or a demolition that requires some form of intrusive work (for instance removing or breaking into a wall or ceiling), then a refurbishment and demolition survey should be considered. This survey will identify any asbestos risks due to the work being done.

N.B. The survey definitions were changed by the HSE in 2010 see: 2010 changes.

Whilst not actually defined in CAR 2012/2013, these surveys are laid down by the Health and Safety Executive and given in the guidelines HSG264 ‘Asbestos: The survey guide‘. Ignoring these guidelines is not advisable as it has the potential to cause a problem in providing an auditable trail of due diligence. AV Asbestos surveys to these HSE standards.

Changes to the law

It should be noted that the Act regarding asbestos allows for adjustments to be made to the regulations by Statutory Instrument (SI) and therefore the law may change from time-to-time without the need for new primary legislation. To become law – or ‘made’ – SIs only have to be laid before Parliament. In reality, for relatively uncontroversial areas such as asbestos, this is little more than a ‘rubber-stamping’ process. Therefore, the laws governing asbestos are liable to change with little reporting by the mainstream news media. The current position should be regularly checked (because under UK law ignorantia juris non excusat – ignorance of the law does not excuse).

Sources of documentation

Although this section covers the key aspects of the law regarding asbestos, you may want to see a copy of the key documents for yourself:

View documentation