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Asbestos (HSE guidance)

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Managing the risks from asbestos in buildings, including asbestos removal

  • What is asbestos?

  • Why is asbestos dangerous?

    • Breathing in asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos-related lung diseases, mainly cancers, and can take from 15 - 60 years to develop. The vast majority of people now dying were exposed to asbestos during the 1950s and 1960s, when the use of asbestos in the UK was at its peak.
    • Many of today's asbestos victims worked in building trades. They were carpenters, joiners, shop fitters, plumbers, electricians etc. They were exposed to asbestos dust in their day-to-day work with asbestos materials or because work with asbestos was carried out near them.
      • Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, this is  more than the number of people killed on the road.
      • Around 20 tradesman die each week as a result of past exposure
    • However, asbestos is not just a problem of the past. It can be present today in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000.
    • When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air. When these fibres are inhaled they can cause serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. This is why it is important that you protect yourself now.
  • What are asbestos-related diseases?

    • Mesothelioma

    • Mesothelioma is a cancer which affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.
    • Asbestos-related lung cancer

    • Asbestos-related lung cancer is the same as (looks the same as) lung cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma death.
    • Asbestosis

    • Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition can cause progressive shortness of breath, and in severe cases can be fatal.
    • Pleural thickening

    • Pleural thickening is generally a problem that happens after heavy asbestos exposure. The lining of the lung (pleura) thickens and swells. If this gets worse, the lung itself can be squeezed, and can cause shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.
  • Duty to manage asbestos

    • Owners of commercial buildings and rented domestic properties

      • If you own / occupy a commercial building, or own / manage a rented domestic property, you will need to prepare an asbestos management plan in accordance with the pdf icon Control of Asbestos - Approved Code of Practice [1Mb].
      • This involves obtaining an asbestos management survey, which will identify likely asbestos-containing materials and mark them on drawings to form an asbestos register. As there is a positive duty to manage asbestos, your asbestos management plan will also identify any measures required to prevent the disturbance of materials, or their removal if they are in a poor condition.
      • You do not have to remove asbestos-containing materials if they are not damaged and do not pose risks to the persons within the building. You can simply manage them and review their condition regularly.
      • If asbestos containing materials are damaged, they may need to be removed and a competent asbestos surveyor or removal contractor should be consulted.
      • Any person working with asbestos must be competent to do so, and qualifications will depend on the type of work they want to carry out.  
    • Owners-occupiers of domestic properties

      • Although there are no duties on you to undertake an asbestos management survey, any intrusive work will require an asbestos refurbishment/demolition survey before contractors undertake the work (eg. electrical, plumbing, demolition, refurbishment).
      • It is the responsibility of the contractors to have an asbestos refurbishment / demolition survey in accordance with the pdf icon Control of Asbestos - Approved Code of Practice [1Mb], and they should include the cost of the survey within the price quoted for the work.
      • Any person working with asbestos must be competent to do so, and qualifications will depend on the type of work they want to carry out.  
  • Building maintenance, repair and refurbishment workers

    • Workers undertaking building maintenance are particularly at risk of exposure to asbestos fibres released when asbestos-containing materials are disturbed.
    • Before you carry out any maintenance, repair or refurbishment, on buildings built prior to 2000, you should check the asbestos register and management plan in a commercial building, or obtain an asbestos survey in domestic premises. If you uncover any hidden material or dust which you suspect may contain asbestos, stop work and get advice (you may contact HSE on 01481 220010 for additional information on emergency decontamination).
    • You should also make sure that you are competent to work with asbestos. All construction workers should receive asbestos awareness training.
  • Training - Basic Asbestos Awareness

    • Information, instruction and training for asbestos awareness is intended to give workers and supervisors the information they need to:
      • avoid work that may disturb asbestos during any normal work,
      • which could disturb the fabric of a building, or
      • other items which may contain asbestos.
    • Further information can be found at
  • Householders

    • As owner-occupier, you do not have to complete an asbestos management plan (asbestos survey, register and action plan) for your own property. If you have any intrusive work done on your property, all contractors - builders, electricians, decorators etc. - will need to obtain an asbestos survey prior to the work being undertaken. It is often a good idea to arrange for your own survey to avoid duplication and reduce the cost.
    • If you have an asbestos survey or register, you will need to share a copy with any contractor you use for building work, so that they are aware of the risks.
    • If you are involved in DIY, or do work on your own property, you can find some useful safe methods of work and guidance on Asbestos Essentials (UK Guidance).
    • Minor work on fully bonded Asbestos-Containing Materials such as corrugated asbestos cement roof sheets, textured coated ceilings (Artex) and vinyl floor tiles are classes as low risk:
      • If the product in question is in good condition and not breaking-up or crumbling, then it shouldn't cause a problem. It will still be doing the job that it was intended to do when first installed.
      • It is only if you need to repair / remove or drill into something that may contain asbestos that a problem arises.
    • If you have any queries please contact the Health & Safety Executive (Tel. 01481 220010 or
  • Disposal of asbestos sheeting (bonded asbestos)

    • Keep the bonded material intact as much as possible,
    • Asbestos cement sheets can be removed by cutting the bolts from underneath, and keeping the material damp to reduce any fibre release, 
    • Double bag asbestos waste before it dries, in heavy duty polythene bags / sheets,
    • Label the outer one to show that it contains asbestos,
    • If a skip is being used, then do not mix other building material / rubbish with it; skips containing asbestos must be covered,
    • This can then be taken to Mont Cuet landfill site for disposal on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings only. Please follow this link for waste sites opening times.
  • Asbestos works undertaken by non Guernsey based firms

    • Where an employer or self-employed person already holds a licence issued by the UK HSE, Health and Safety Executive for Northern Ireland or The Minister for Social Security in Jersey, they will be considered as competent to extend their work to The Bailiwick of Guernsey. In such cases any conditions on the licence will also apply to any work carried out in Guernsey. A copy of the contractor's licence must be made available to the HSE at the time of notification detailing any relevant conditions or additional restrictions. 
    • It is incumbent on the contractor to familiarise themselves with the Guernsey Asbestos ACOP and guidance which can be found by clicking here.  The contractors must be able to prove to the HSE that they have adequate knowledge, experience and arrangements to carry out the work safely, without risk to the health and safety of persons who work with the ACMs or others who may be affected by the work.  They must also display an adequate knowledge of all types of ACMs that they are likely to encounter, and appreciate the limitations of work which they can perform; they must know how to cope with situations where they encounter materials which they do not have the expertise to deal with.  As such training certificates and other documentation may be required by HSE Guernsey prior to work commencing, so should be available to the contractors at short notice in order to prevent delay in starting the work.  
  • Removal / disposal of asbestos lagging, insulation boards and sprayed asbestos should only be removed by a specialist contractor.

    • Specialist Contractor details can be obtained found in the phonebook or from the Health and Safety Executive - Phone 01481 220010
    • Disposal must be booked in advance with Waste Services 01481 226263.


Please do not hesitate to contact the Health and Safety Executive before commencing work if you have any concerns or are unsure whether asbestos is present: or 01481 220010.


Control of Asbestos - Approved Code of Practice 2013 (version 4) Asbestos Notification Form

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