Managing Asbestos

The Duty to Manage Asbestos

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Asbestos can be a real problem for many churches.  New regulations came into force in 2004 and were revised under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.  Regulation 4 – which applies to all non-domestic premises including places of worship – introduced a new ‘duty to manage’ asbestos.

The person on whom this duty is placed, known as the ‘duty holder’, is the person in control of maintenance activities on the premises.  An approved Code of Practice providing advice on the duties under Regulation 4 has been issued to give duty holders advice on how to comply with the regulations (see

Who does asbestos affect?

Prior to the issue of the regulations, around 3,000 died each year in the UK from asbestos-related diseases; the three most common of these are lung cancer, asbestosis and mesothelioma.

Persons at greatest risk are those who have been involved in the building trade, particularly those whose work involves drilling, sawing or cutting into the fabric of premises, such as plumbers, electricians, carpenters, shop fitters and anyone undertaking routine maintenance work.

The types of asbestos

There are 3 main types of asbestos still found in premises.  These are commonly called “blue asbestos” (crocidolite), “brown asbestos” (amosite) and “white asbestos” (chrysotile).  All of these are hazardous, although blue and brown asbestos are more hazardous than white.  It is impossible to identify the different types by sight.  Usually, the material will have been painted or mixed with another component.  Accurately identifying asbestos type requires laboratory analysis.

Where is asbestos found?

Asbestos and asbestos-based products can be found in:

  • Fire breaks in ceiling voids
  • Fire protection around structural steelwork
  • Thermal insulation for pipes and boilers
  • Wall and ceiling panels, partitions and soffit boards
  • Roofing and wall cladding
  • Gutters, rainwater pipes and water tanks
  • Textured coatings and vinyl or thermoplastic floor tiles.

The use of materials containing blue or brown asbestos in building construction was banned in 1985.  Materials containing white asbestos were banned in 1999.

Sprayed coatings, lagging and insulation board is more likely to contain blue or brown asbestos.  Asbestos insulation and lagging can contain up to 85% asbestos and is most likely to give off fibres.  Work with asbestos insulating board can result in equally high fibre release if power tools are used.  Asbestos cement, however, contains only 10% to 15% asbestos, which is tightly bound into the cement and the material will only give off fibres if it is badly damaged or broken.


The duty to manage, imposed by Regulation 4, will require those in control of premises to undertake the following:

  • A suitable and sufficient assessment to establish if there is asbestos in the premises, its quantity and its condition.
  • A presumption that materials contain asbestos, unless there is strong evidence that they do not.
  • The creation and maintenance of an up-to-date record of the location and condition of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) or presumed ACMs in the premises.
  • An assessment of the risk of the likelihood of anyone being exposed to fibres from these materials.
  • Preparation of a plan that sets out in detail how to manage the risk from this material.
  • Ensuring the measures specified in the plan for managing the risk includes monitoring of the condition of any asbestos and ensuring that any asbestos is properly maintained or, where necessary, safely removed.
  • Taking the necessary steps to put the plan into action.
  • Reviewing and monitoring the plan and the arrangements made to put it in place.
  • Providing information on the location and condition of the material to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb it and make it available to the emergency services.

The duty holder may appoint a competent person to carry out all or part of the work to meet the requirements of Regulation 4, but final responsibility for complying with the duty remains with the duty holder.


The duty holder must establish whether or not asbestos is present in the building and this can be achieved by the following methods:

  • If there are any doubts about any of the materials in the premises, then the presumption must be made that it contains asbestos.
  • The only materials where it is safe to presume that they do not contain asbestos are glass, timber, bricks and stone.
  • A suitably trained person should be employed to undertake a survey of the premises to identify ACMs. The survey should be carried out in accordance with the HSE Guidance (see
  • The duty holder should ensure that the person undertaking the survey has the appropriate liability insurance by obtaining a sight of the policy or other evidence.

If it is decided to leave ACMs that are in good condition in place, a note needs to be made of where they are located on an asbestos register.  This is a legal requirement.

ACMs can be labelled with asbestos warning signs, although this is not mandatory.  If asbestos is not labelled, the duty holder must ensure that those who might work on the material know about its location.  A Permit to Work system will ensure that anyone working on the premises is alerted to the presence of asbestos.

Where it is not possible to safely manage asbestos left in place, a contractor licensed by the HSE must remove it.