top of page

Health & Safety with the hidden killer

In our second asbestos article, we outline the types of work associated with the hazardous material, and the levels of training required for trades people who might disturb the so-called ‘hidden killer’

In accordance with Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012), anyone liable to disturb asbestos during their job must receive the correct level of information, instruction and training so they can work safely and without risks to themselves or others.

Asbestos awareness training is mandatory for those whose work might disturb the fabric of a building and expose them to asbestos, and those supervising or influencing such work. This includes electricians, plumbers, joiners, maintenance workers and installers of telecom, data and alarm systems.

Asbestos awareness training should cover the following:

  • the properties of asbestos and its effects on health, including the increased risk of developing lung cancer for smokers exposed to it

  • the types, uses and likely occurrence of asbestos materials in buildings

  • the general procedures to deal with an emergency, e.g. an uncontrolled release of asbestos dust into the workplace

  • how to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos.

Asbestos awareness may typically be delivered as a half-day training course, but is increasingly provided via online learning, which the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recognise as a viable delivery method.

Asbestos awareness is only intended to help employees or self-employed contractors avoid disturbing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs); it doesn’t prepare them to carry out work on such materials. If they are planning jobs which could disturb ACMs, additional information, instruction and training is required – as we shall see later.

A number of training providers issue certificates after an asbestos awareness course, some of which expire 12 months later. Although there’s no legal requirement to repeat such sessions, some form of annual refresher shouldbe given to help ensure knowledge is retained. Such refresher training could alternatively be provided as e-learning or as part of other health and safety updates.

Working with asbestos

CAR 2012 identifies three categories of work with ACMs based upon the risk, duration and intensity of possible exposure:

Licensed work

This can only be carried out by a specialist asbestos contractor licensed by the HSE. Such high-risk work would include work on asbestos-sprayed coatings, loose-fill insulation and asbestos lagging, or asbestos insulating board (AIB), where the risk of fibre release is high or the work is not of short duration. Most asbestos work must be undertaken by a licensed contractor, but any decision on whether particular work is licensable is based on risk. The work methods of such contractors is beyond the scope of this article.

Non-licensed work

This can be carried out by suitably trained individuals who plan to carry out work not requiring a license and who may knowingly disturb lower-risk ACMs. This might include short-duration work with low-fibre release of ACMs in good condition, e.g. replacing an asbestos-containing fusebox or drilling through textured coatings while using safe working practices.

Notifiable non-licensed work

This new category was introduced in April 2012 for some non-licensed work where the risk of fibre release is greater, such as the removal of small areas of textured coatings. It requires:

  • notification to the relevant enforcing authority by an online form before work starts, although it is not necessary to wait for permission.

  • medical examinations, which must include a chest examination and lung function tests to assess each worker’s state of health, to be carried out before exposure to asbestos begins and then at least every three years

  • a register of work or health record to be kept for 40 years for each employee exposed to asbestos, including the nature and duration of work and dates of medical examinations.

Training for non-licensed asbestos work

Training for non-licensed asbestos work is required for those workers who plan to carry out work not requiring a licence, whether notifiable or otherwise, and who may knowingly disturb lower-risk ACMs.

Such training should be provided in addition to asbestos awareness, must be job-specific and tailored to the work to be done, and should include the following:

  • how to make suitable and sufficient assessments of the risk of exposure to asbestos

  • safe working practices and controls, including an explanation of the correct use of control measures and work methods

  • selection and appropriate use of protective equipment

  • waste handling procedures

  • emergency procedures

  • relevant legal requirements

  • circumstances when non-licensed work may be notifiable.

A competent training provider should be used, e.g. a member of UKATA or the Independent Asbestos Training Providers (IATP).

Refresher training for non-licensed work should also be given every year and a record of the training received by each individual kept.

SELECT provides half-day asbestos awareness courses in accordance with Regulation 10 of CAR 2012, using trainers from a member company of the United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association (UKATA). For further information, contact SELECT Training on 0131 445 5577, quoting ‘Course 310’.


Find out more with the HSE’s essential reading

HSE’s Asbestos essentials: A task manual for building, maintenance and allied trades on non-licensed asbestos work, also known as HSG210, is essential reading.

It provides guidance for employers, managers and sole traders on the categories of ACM work, where asbestos can be found in buildings, and how they can plan and work safely. Complete with colour images and step-by-step guidance, a series of 38 task sheets describe what equipment is required for a particular task and the actions needed to reduce exposure to an adequate level.

These are cross-referenced to equipment and method sheets that provide advice on the correct tools for the job and how to use them. The fourth edition of Asbestos essentials was published in January 2018 and provides updated guidance on a number of issues, including greater clarity on which non-licensed tasks are notifiable.

It can be bought from priced £25. Free individual task sheets and equipment and method sheets can also be downloaded at

Recent Posts
bottom of page