28th May 2016

Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK1.  Asbestos was extensively used in construction materials up until the late 1990s, and is present in a significant number of buildings.  Its long-term, fatal health-risks are well-documented, yet 4,500 people die each year from past exposure to asbestos fibres, and this figure is expected to rise.

Asbestos is known as ‘the hidden killer’ because many of the health risks it poses take many years to develop and once diagnosed, it can often be too late to do anything.  Health risks include: Mesothelioma (cancer affecting the lining of the lungs), Asbestos-related lung cancer, Asbestosis (scarring of the lungs) and Pleural Thickening (swelling and thickening of the lining of the lungs).

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 [1] came into force on 6 April 2012, updating previous asbestos regulations.

These regulations refer to the “dutyholder’s” responsibility to:

  • take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic premises, and if so, its amount, where it is and what condition it is in;
  • presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not;
  • make, and keep up-to-date, a record of the location and condition of the asbestos containing materials – or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos;
  • assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres from the materials identified;
  • prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed;
  • take the necessary steps to put the plan into action;
  • periodically review and monitor the plan and the arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up-to-date; and
  • provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

For non-domestic premises, the “dutyholder” is the person or organisation that has a clear responsibility for the maintenance or repair of the premises through an explicit agreement such as a tenancy agreement or contract (this can be the property owner, the leaseholder/s or a managing agent).   However, there is also clear value in ensuring all those who may be exposed to asbestos at work know what to do to protect themselves and others.


[1] Source: