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Asbestos Management Division Disabled Access Division Project Management Division

What is Asbestos?


Asbestos is the collective term used to describe a family of several types of naturally occurring mineral rock. The three main types of asbestos minerals are commonly called blue (Crocidolite), brown (Amosite) and white (Chrysolite).

How does asbestos get in the body?

Asbestos fibres enter the body through inhalation via the nose and mouth from where they can pass into the lungs and attack the respiratory system.

Why is asbestos dangerous?

Exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to the development of one of three fatal diseases:

  • Asbestosis (scarring of the lung)

  • Lung Cancer

  • Mesothelioma (cancer of the lung and stomach lining)

Such disease are currently responsible for about 3,000 deaths per year in the UK, a quarter of which are people who worked in the building trade. Current trends suggest that this figure is set to increase to more than 10,000 deaths per year by 2020.

Where is asbestos found in buildings?

Due to their distinct chemical, mechanical and physical characteristics, thousands of tons of asbestos were used over the last century in the construction of industrial, commercial and domestic properties throughout the UK. It's most common uses were:

  • Sprayed asbestos (limprt) on steelwork

  • Thermal insulation (lagging) on pipework and boilers

  • Asbestos insulation board (AIB) ceiling tiles, wall panels, firebreaks and soffits

  • Asbestos cement products, corrugated sheeting, heater flue pipes and rainwear

  • Other products including floor tiles, artex coatings, mastics/sealants, pipewwork-gaskets and roofing felt

Who is currently at risk?

All occupants of buildings containing asbestos where it is not appropriately managed. Particularly building maintenance workers such as plumbers, carpenters, electricians, computer/cabling installers and telcommunication engineers, all who may routinely disturb asbestos materials in day to day work. Accumulated over time such repeated exposures could therefore lead to the development of asbestos related diseases.

New regulations

In response to the risks of exposure to asbestos the Government introduced the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (CAW) 2002 in October 2002. The aim is to ensure that all materials that contain asbestos are managed in a way that protects employees and other users of buildings from these risks.Regulation 4 of CAW 2002 requires the "Duty Holder" of all non-domestic properties to produce a written management plan specifying the measures to be taken to control and manage the risks posed by exposure to asbestos-containing materials in their premises.The "Duty Holder" could be the employer, property manager, landlord or any person who has a responsibility for managing and maintaining premises.The steps necessary to comply with the Regulations are:

  • Assess whether premises contain asbestos;

  • Assess the risk from asbestos; and

  • Take action to manage the risk from asbestos.

The Regulations are now in force and require an Asbestos Management Plan to be in place for every workplace by April 2004.



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