Guide to UK Licensing Regulations for Handling Asbestos

Asbestos materials were for the most part completely banned by 2000 because they pose a major health risk to people and animals. However there are still some uses for asbestos in manufacturing because it is highly resistant to fire. Additionally, the construction industry still faces the frequent handling of asbestos in buildings that were made before the ban.

This guide provides a useful overview on the licensing regulations in place to ensure the safety of workers handling asbestos materials. If you are employed by a company that is not compliant, you are putting yourself at risk of developing asbestosis and other grave health conditions.

The Types of Asbestos Work that Require a License

Any handling of asbestos materials considered higher-risk means that asbestos fibres can become air born and are therefore likely to be breathed in, causing serious lung damage. To combat this risk, it is crucial to carry out a professional risk assessment. The following types of work with asbestos can only legally be carried out by a licensed contractor:

• Any work where asbestos exposure is regular and of high intensity;
• Work carried out that cannot demonstrate a control limit figure of 0.1 asbestos fibres per cubic centimetre of air, averaging over a four hour period;
• Any work on asbestos coating;
• Any work on asbestos insulation or asbestos insulating board where the risk assessment shows that the work is not done over a short duration i.e. the work will take no more than two hours in a seven day period and no individual works for more than one hour in that two hour period.

Examples of Asbestos Related Tasks that Requires a License

While a comprehensive listing of licensable work with asbestos can be found at the Health and Safety Executive website (, this list covers the common types of work that will definitely need a license to carry out:

• any work involving loose fill insulation;
• any work on asbestos millboard;
• removal or other work which can disturb pipe lagging;
• removal of sprayed coatings (otherwise called limpet asbestos);
• work on asbestos insulating boards if the risk assessment indicates it will not be of short duration;
• work involving the clean-up of significant quantities of loose or fine debris containing asbestos materials (ACM dust) if the risk assessment determines the work will not be sporadic, of low intensity, of short duration and also if it exceeds the control limit described above.

While some types of work with ACMs (asbestos containing materials) do not require a license, law dictates that you must complete certain documentation – this is called Notifiable Non-licensed Work (NNLW). More details about this can be found at the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.

Asbestos Licensing Ins and Outs

Whether you plan to work as an asbestos contractor on someone else’s premises or are carrying out work at your own business premises, if the job includes any of the tasks listed above, you will need to apply for a license. The license granted could possibly include conditions or restrictions to the work that can legally be carried out.

The licensing process works as follows:

1) A Director of the company intending to carry out asbestos work must fill in form ASB5 on the HSE website.
2) Pay the licensing assessment fee, which currently stands at £3,236.
3) An HSE inspector will carry out an assessment of the business.
4) Based on their assessment, the business will either be granted a license or HSE will explain why they have withheld permission and what can be done for eligibility. Further fees apply for re-application.

Using the ASB5 form, all licensable work must be notified to the correct enforcing authority at least 14 days before the work starts. The authority will depend on the type of business premises and activity:

• LA (Local Authority) – offices, shops, churches, hotels, storage facilities, etc.
• HSE (Health & Safety Executive) – domestic premises, farms, factories, construction and demolition sites, hospitals, media broadcasting premises, educational establishments, etc.
• ORR (Office of Rail Regulation) – railways, railway lines and signal boxes.

Last but not least, whether the type of work due to be done requires a license or not, any work with asbestos materials must by law be compliant with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. Further details on this can be found at the HSE website.


Any company that is carrying out the types of work listed above without a license will be subject to prosecution. Additionally, their workers are at risk of developing serious health problems from asbestos exposure, and if any employee is diagnosed with an asbestos related illness, the company will face significant compensation penalties.