Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 – Guide on UK Legislation

Most of us know that asbestos is dangerous, but just how dangerous? The Control of Asbestos regulations 2012 lay out how this dangerous substance should be dealt with. If you are likely to be exposed to asbestos in the workplace, it’s important to understand the health and safety rules.

About Asbestos

Asbestos fibres are very light and float in the air. If you breathe these in, they can cause asbestos-related cancer of the lungs and chest lining (called mesothelioma).

There is usually a long delay between first exposure and the onset of the disease, often 15 – 60 years. Past exposure to asbestos kills around 4500 people a year in the UK.

Who is at Risk?

Some occupations are at higher risk of asbestos exposure than others. Any employer who carries out work where this type of exposure is a possibility should have carried out the appropriate risk assessments.

The following occupations are at a high risk from exposure to asbestos at work:-

  • Builders, demolition contractors, roofers and other construction contractors.
  • Anyone installing electronics in walls could also be at risk.
  • If asbestos products are in poor condition and readily disturbed, those occupying the property could also be at risk.

Whilst it is now illegal to use asbestos in construction of any kind, asbestos was used a lot pre 2000. Thi means it still exists in many older buildings. It is therefore very important that regulations governing the handling of asbestos at work are followed carefully.

Employers have a duty of care to all employees. Following Health and Safety rules is vital when it comes to keeping workers safe and wel. This is particularly true when it comes to the rules laid out in the Control of Asbestos Regulations.

Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (COAB) are designed to ensure the safe handling of asbestos, both for the benefit of those handling it, and the general public in the surrounding area.

Who has a duty to manage asbestos under COAB?

  • Building owners.
  • Building managers, even if you have no contract to manage it.
  • If you are responsible for the building by way of a contract or tenancy agreement.
  • Those who have a duty to manage asbestos under COAB are called ‘Duty Holders’.

What buildings are affected by COAB?

  • Non-domestic buildings of any type
  • Common areas of domestic buildings (e.g. stairwells, lift shafts, roof spaces)

All other domestic buildings are not affected.

What duties are imposed by COAB on Duty Holders?

Duty holders must:-

  1. Find out if there is asbestos in the premises, its location and its condition. If a material may contain asbestos, you should assume that it does unless you have strong evidence to the contrary.
  2. Make and keep up to date a written record of the location and condition of any asbestos containing (or potential asbestos containing) materials in your property
  3. Assess the risk from any such material and plan how to manage that risk.
  4. Actively manage any risk caused by asbestos containing (or potential asbestos containing) materials.
  5. Provide this information to anyone who is working on, or is likely to disturb that material.

How to identify asbestos

Asbestos can be found in some common locations within buildings.

If you are on a worksite, be aware of the following areas in which this hazardous material may be found:-

  • Sprayed asbestos was used as fire protection in ducts and ceiling voids.
  • Lagging containing asbestos was used as thermal insulation for pipes and boilers.
  • Asbestos insulating boards were used as fire protection in wall partitions and ducts.
  • Asbestos cement products were used in water tanks and roofing.
  • Products containing asbestos were used in decorative plaster and paints.
  • Bitumen containing asbestos was used in roofing felt and ceiling tiles.

If you suspect that asbestos is in your property, particularly if you plan to carry out renovation works, it is often best to instruct a specialist to carry out an asbestos survey.

Organisations that sample and analyse asbestos are accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS). A list of UKAS accredited experts can be found at

What to do if Asbestos is Discovered

If you discover asbestos in your premises, what action(s) you take will depend upon its condition.

Good condition:

  • Monitor the condition of the material at regular intervals.
  • Where practical, label the material as containing asbestos.
  • Inform any contractor who is likely to work on or disturb the material about your concerns.

Minor damage:

  • Repair the material.
  • Monitor the condition of the material at regular intervals.
  • Inform any contractor who is likely to work on or disturb the material about your concerns.

Poor condition:

  • Any asbestos in poor condition should be removed by a suitably experienced and accredited contractor.

Likely to be disturbed:

  • No matter what condition asbestos or asbestos containing products are in, if they are likely to be disturbed, they should be removed by an accredited contractor for safety reasons.

Further information

For further information about asbestos and The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, visit

Contractors will also be bound by The Hazardous Waste (England and Wales) Regulations 2005. Further information for contractors can be found at (the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association).

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