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 Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012).

The regulations are defined by a Statutory Instrument (SI). SIs are legal mechanisms that allow for legislation to be delegated, generally this becomes the responsibility of a Minister of the Crown. These delegations are established within the original act of Parliament. Broadly their purpose is to avoid the need to produce new primary legislation (a new act) each time specific legislative details within the scope of the act need to be changed. SIs have to be laid before Parliament to be ratified. CAR 2012 is given in SI 2012 No.632. This SI is within the purview of the The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions under The Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and The European Communities Act 1972. The regulations are managed for The Secretary of State by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which in turn is part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). CAR 2012 replaces The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006, these were given in SI 2006 No.2739.

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 Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 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, including the proper ongoing supervision of the ACMs, 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 the premises' duty holder (see above) is also obligated to communicate the presence of any ACMs to the carpenter.)

Duty holders

The effect of CAR 2012 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:

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).

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.

AV Asbestos can provide this training based upon your particular requirements. See our training page for more details

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. 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. 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 CAR 2012 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, 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).

The Control of Asbestos Regulations were unchanged in 2010, although a new of set guidelines written by the Health and Safety Executive were published. This document described how to undertake surveying for asbestos containing materials (ACMs), it is known as 'HSG264 – Asbestos: The survey guide'. It replaced the earlier HSE standard that was known as MDHS 100 (Methods of Determining Hazardous Substances 100). One of the key elements of the new document specifies changes to the types of survey to be undertaken. (See the supporting documentation page.)

Below are given a brief guide to the changes, the old survey types are only shown here for cross-referencing and are no longer applicable. The three legacy types of survey were:

  • Type 1: Location and assessment survey (presumptive survey)
    This survey type was replaced by the management survey.

    This type of survey was used to locate and assess the presence, extent, and condition of any asbestos containing materials (ACMs); actual or presumed. All areas were inspected as far as reasonably practical, where this was impossible they were presumed to contain asbestos. This type of survey deferred the need to take any samples. Therefore, as no sampling was carried out, there was no definite identification of suspected ACMs. This meant that there was a high risk of bearing the cost for managing materials that did not actually contain asbestos. This was the result of the presumption that any material that may contain asbestos did so. Thus asbestos-free materials were often falsely identified and treated as ACMs for any future work. In Type 1 surveys, material could only be excluded when there was the complete confidence that it did not contain asbestos i.e. glass, metal or wood (although ACMs may have been hidden by them).

  • Type 2: Standard sampling, identification and assessment survey (sampling survey)
    This survey type was replaced by the management survey.

    The procedure used for this type of survey was broadly the same as for Type 1s, but in this case representative samples of materials were collected under controlled conditions and then laboratory-tested to confirm or refute the presence of asbestos. Sampling may have taken place simultaneously with a Type 1 survey, or been revisited later. As with Type 1 surveys, the condition of the ACMs in question had to be assessed. In time, due to the shortcomings of the Type 1 survey, this option became the preferred choice.

  • Type 3: Full access sampling and identification survey (pre-demolition/major refurbishment survey)
    This survey type was replaced by the refurbishment and demolition survey.

    This survey was required before demolition or major refurbishment work, as well as when removing walls and or ceilings. The survey included any area affected, and where necessary, it included fully intrusive and destructive inspection of hard-to-access areas – including areas unexamined in previous surveys. This survey was often used to form the basis of a tender for the work to remove the ACMs.

    Full sampling programmes were undertaken to identify ACMs and their quantities (volume and surface area, etc.) and so gauge the extent of any ACMs that needed to be removed. Therefore, an assessment of the condition of any ACMs present was not necessary.

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