Building contractors and demolition firms are always likely to be in the frontline of risk of exposure to asbestos hidden in buildings they are working on, which were constructed or renovated up to or after the 1980s.

White chrysotile asbestos – considered a low risk mineral due to its curly or ‘serpentine’ fibres – was still being used to make building materials such as wallboard, cement products, roof shingles, surface coatings and other types of insulation or pipe lagging after more toxic asbestos types ( with sharp, needle-like fibres) were banned in the mid 1980s.

Cases brought to court frequently report building firms, premises owners or duty holders who appear to ignore the required procedures or simply lack asbestos awareness of the full extent of health risks posed by their negligent actions.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) constantly campaign to reinforce the mandatory requirements to conduct thorough management surveys and follow Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR). In April, an updated ‘essentials’ guideline was issued to help all those working in industries involved in notifiable, non-licensed asbestos work. Click here to download PDF of new HSE Asbestos Essentials Guide : Advice on Non Licensed Work with Asbestos.

A new guide on Asbestos licence assessment, amendment and revocation guide (ALAARG) has just been released by the HSE, chiefly aimed at regulators and other who need to apply for a licence to undertake work with asbestos. Working with asbestos is strictly controlled and is subject to a ‘permissioning’ regime. Among the contents are procedures for when special permission is required, as well as the standard license types and their conditions.

Licences can also be amended or revoked by the Asbestos Licensing Unit (ALU), who are delegated by the HSE in liaison with the asbestos licensing principal inspector (ALPI) responsible for asbestos assessments. History and performance are taken into consideration, including the training of employees and the provision of protective equipment. Click here to download PDF of HSE Asbestos licence assessment, amendment and revocation guide (ALAARG.

According to the HSE, there are an estimated four million properties around the UK, with hidden asbestos-containing materials(ACMs), which are often found in a friable ( fragile and disintegrating) condition. Any attempt to remove asbestos or if accidentally drilled into or scraped can result in fibres being released into the air.

Once asbestos fibres are inhaled, they can remain permanently in the lung linings (pleura), eventually causing asbestosis diseases or the fatal and incurable mesothelioma cancer. An exceptionally long gestation period of up 50 years can elapse before the first asbestosis symptoms appear, by which time, the disease may have spread to adjacent tissues or organs and life expectancy can be less than six months.

More than 1.8 million people are exposed to asbestos every year and over 2,000 cases of mesothelioma diagnosed at the same time.