Asbestos Regulations – 2006 Amendments

The following information relates to the 2006 amendments to the Control of Asbestos Regulations; this information was compiled and summarised for the AIC by A. H. Hutchinson.

See our other page for the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

The revisions to the regulations came into force on the 13th November 2006.

The main changes to the Asbestos Regulations relate to;

  • a licensed asbestos contractor is now required unless the work involves sporadic and low intensity exposure
  • a reduction in the Control Limit
  • the removal of textured coatings from the requirement to always use a licensed asbestos contractor,
  • the more detailed statements on the training required for anyone who might come across asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in their work
  • a far more time consuming and expensive way to tell the difference between an asbestos cement product and other more dangerous products, that used to be classed as low density.

The following information relates directly to how the regulation changes affect working with asbestos cement products (AC), particularly on farm buildings.

Please note that for information regarding the changes to work with asbestos insulating boards and asbestos coatings is not included here, as this is specialist work, where only firms licensed by the HSE should be used.

It is also worth mentioning that this is only a brief guide; it is not a complete guide to Health and Safety responsibilities when working with asbestos containing products nor is it a complete guide to health and safety responsibilities when on a construction site. Anyone working with asbestos cement products should read and understand the ACoP (Approved Code of Practice) for these revised regulations: ‘Work with Materials Containing Asbestos’ L143, which is obtainable from HSE books.

Sporadic and low intensity exposure

The revised regulations advise that when work on an ACM is required, and there is no way of avoiding that work, then a licensed asbestos contractor should be used.

The exceptions to this rule however are working with:

  • asbestos cement, textured decorative coatings or any article of bitumen, plastic, resin or rubber where their thermal or acoustic properties are incidental to its main purpose and involves sporadic and low intensity exposure.

Sporadic and low intensity exposure is defined as exposure that does not cause the ten minute limit or the 4 hour control limit to be exceeded. If the risk assessment shows that either of the limits set out below are at risk of being exceeded, then the work is not sporadic and low intensity, and so a licensed asbestos contractor must be used.

Reduction in the Control limit

The new limits are the same for all types of asbestos, so even though the risks associated with the different types are very different, this is ignored in the limits set. There are two limits:

  • The ten minute limit of 0.6f/cm3 (f/ml)
  • The 4 hour control limit of 0.1f/cm3 (f/ml)

It is interesting to note that the 0.1f/cm3 comes from the EU directive that this change in regulations is implementing, except that the directive asks that it is averaged over 8 hours. Once again the HSE is forcing UK industry to work to limits in excess of those that their EU competitors have to, with very little – if any – evidence that this restriction will reduce asbestos related illnesses.

if asbestos cement (AC) products are correctly worked with, and the correct precautions taken, then in theory the above limits should not be reached, but it is still strongly recommended that those companies that are planning to work with AC roofs employ a UKAS accredited laboratory to carry out air sampling on typical jobs, whilst the work is being carried out to ensure themselves and their clients that their techniques used to keep the release of fibres to the minimum are correct and that the limits are not being breached.

Methods to reduce the release of fibres to the minimum

Before starting work, check whether the work is necessary; is it possible to carry out the work without disturbing the ACM? A typical example is re-roofing; a risk assessment will often show that over roofing will provide the least risk. If a building is being demolished, the removal of the ACMs is required prior to demolition as far it is possible to do so.

Before work starts, the employer must ensure that a competent individual carries out a suitable risk assessment and that a method statement is provided on how the work is to be actioned to comply with these regulations. The risk assessment and method statement shall:

  • Determine the nature and degree of exposure
  • Reduce the exposure to asbestos to the minimum possible. Consider ways of doing the work without disturbing the ACM, only if that is not possible should the ACM be disturbed.
  • State whether the employees might be exposed to asbestos fibre levels in excess of the Control Limit or the Action Level; if they are, the steps listed below under ‘Action Levels and Control Limits’ must be followed.
  • It is not necessary to provide a risk assessment for every individual job. Where an employer carries out work that involves very similar jobs on a number of sites such as roofing, only one assessment for that work may be needed. When one is considering using a risk assessment written before, it is important that the job is inspected to ensure that the conditions of the ACM and the site are the same as the previous jobs. It is possible in very extreme cases for asbestos cement products to be attacked by acids or alkalis to such an extent that the cement matrix is eaten away to leave the raw asbestos. This can happen in very poorly ventilated animal housing. The fibre counts in the building are likely to be so high and the product so friable that it should be treated as a low-density product and handled by a Licensed Asbestos Contractor.
  • The risk assessment should be reviewed if there is any reason to believe that the original is no longer valid, such as a change in the condition of the ACM or the work required.
  • A unique method statement should be written for each individual project; it is not acceptable to provide a generic method statement. The method statement must be kept on site throughout the project.
  • The method statement must list the place of work, the methods to be used to keep the release of asbestos to the minimum possible and the characteristics of the equipment to be used.
  • The employer must ensure that as far as reasonably practicable, the work is carried out in accordance with the method statement.
  • Where situations occur that are not covered by the method statement such as the discovery of other ACMs or a change in the condition of ACMs, work must stop until another method statement to cover the new situation is written.

Use the following methods to work on asbestos cement products that are not in a crumbly/soft condition and you should be able to keep the fibre counts below the Control Limits.

  • Keep the material wet when working on it.
  • Consider the age of the ACM; older ACMs will tend to be more fragile.
  • Avoid using power tools and breaking ACMs, but carefully remove or cut fixings so that the product can be removed in one piece. Carefully carry to the ground and either double wrap in polythene or place in a covered skip.
  • Where it is necessary to cut or drill asbestos cement sheets, ensure the material is wet, and if possible scribe and break – if this is not possible use hand tools, preferably in the open air.
  • Where power tools must be used, employ dust extraction.
  • Keep the site clean and tidy at all times and clean up after work by dampening any dust and carefully placing in a polythene bag for disposal as asbestos waste.
  • Unless the risk assessment shows that RPE is required, the operatives should preferably wear a disposable mask that is CE marked to EN 149 with FFP2 particulate filters, and disposable overalls, which should be disposed of at the end of the shift as asbestos waste.
  • When working at heights follow the advice in HSG 33 Health and safety in roof work.
  • Any plant or equipment contaminated with asbestos must be thoroughly decontaminated before being removed from site.
  • When the work is complete, if it has been inside a building and is not of a minor nature, then Clearance air sampling and a certificate of reoccupation will be required.

Training Requirements

  • Employers must ensure that their employees have received adequate training, understand the risk assessment, and know and understand the method statement. This training should include:
    • all workers who are involved in maintenance should receive adequate asbestos awareness training in case they discover ACMs of which you are unaware.
    • the health risks of asbestos.
    • the types, uses and likely occurrence of asbestos in buildings and plant.
    • the details of how an emergency should be handled.
    • how to avoid the risks caused by the presence of asbestos.

The correct use of protective equipment

Refresher training should be provided on a regular basis, and at least once a year for those regularly involved in working with ACMs. Records should be kept of every individual’s training.

There is a responsibility on the employer to ensure that adequate information is provided to non-employees who are on the premises and could be affected by the work. The procedures for providing information, instructions and training should be clearly defined and set out in a written document.

Recognising and differentiating between an AC product and other more dangerous products

The Regulation states that an AC product is one that ‘when in a dry state absorbs less than 30% water by weight’.

In the previous regulations, this was based on a simple test to provide the density of the product, which was useful because it was so simple that anyone could do the test themselves.

This change in the regulation however means that the water absorption of the product is the deciding factor, which means that a difficult test requiring the use of a competent laboratory is necessary.

One of the basic requirements when considering work on an ACM is to try and avoid directly working on it. Unfortunately, this new test requires the sample to be handled a number of times in the process of testing – some times when it is not in an enclosed air tight bag.

There is also the problem that one of the ways to make an asbestos insulating board (AIB) safe is to seal it. Now an AIB in its natural state will absorb more than 30% of its weight in water, but if in the past it has been well sealed, it probably will not, so even though the test method says ‘partially painted samples can be used but may need longer to absorb water’, there is still the risk of AIB being listed as AC.

Working on a farm site and not sure what type of ACM you’re working with? See our resource on identifying asbestos for more information.