Last updated: 15.09.22

Which Regulations Outline How to Deal With Asbestos?

Asbestos exposure is the biggest cause of occupationally related deaths than any other single cause. The guidance and regulations around working in the vicinity of asbestos are therefore incredibly detailed, with serious legal consequences if anyone responsible is found to be ignoring them.

There is one key piece of UK legislation that contains all of the legal regulations for working and dealing with asbestos. In this article, we explain the key points of this piece of asbestos legislation, who it applies to and why it’s so important.

What are the Current Asbestos Regulations?

The current asbestos regulations are outlined in the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012), which is a piece of statutory legislation in the UK that is sometimes also referred to as the CAR 2012 Regulations.

The most important regulation that this piece of legislation includes is that the asbestos control limit is 0.1 asbestos fibres per cubic centimetre of air (0.1 f/cm3). This isn’t an accepted amount of asbestos to be present in a working environment however - every possible action needs to be taken to try and remove the risk of asbestos completely.

Who Does the Control of Asbestos Regulations Apply to?

The Control of Asbestos Regulations identifies a dutyholder as the person who is responsible for ensuring that the regulations are upheld. This dutyholder is any and every person that has an obligation to the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises as outlined by a contract or a tenancy.

For parts of non-domestic premises where there isn’t a designated contrast or tenancy holder, the dutyholder is any and every person that has control of that part of the premises or access to it.

To summarise, these regulations apply to you if:

  • You are responsible for a building through a tenancy or contract
  • You own a building
  • You control a building but don’t have an official contract or tenancy
  • You own a multiple-occupancy building and are responsible for the common parts
  • You work in a multiple-occupancy building and are responsible for the parts you occupy

A Guide to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

The Control of Asbestos Regulations was brought in on 6th April 2012 after criticisms that previous asbestos regulations weren’t sufficiently following the EU Directive on exposure to asbestos. It sets out the legal duties for anyone working with asbestos, employing individuals that might be exposed to asbestos, or responsible for premises where asbestos is or might be present.


The main duties outlined in this legislation are laid out in Part Two, Regulation 4 of the CAR 2012 regulations. They are:

  • The dutyholder must make sure that a suitable assessment is carried out to determine whether any asbestos is present on the premises or likely to be present, and what condition the asbestos is in
  • This assessment must be reviewed if it is suspected to no longer be valid or the premises have significantly changed
  • The conclusion of this assessment must be recorded
  • If asbestos is identified in the premises, the dutyholder must provide a written plan of the areas affected and the measures that will be taken to manage the identified risk
  • The asbestos risk management measures must assess the condition of the asbestos, ensure that this is either safely maintained or removed, and identify anyone relevant to the material’s whereabouts
  • A plan for the management of any asbestos must be regularly reviewed to ensure it is up to date
  • The dutyholder must ensure that these measures are carried out and recorded

Potential Employee Exposure Assessment and Plan

Ideally, the regulations state that asbestos exposure should be entirely prevented as far as possible, to remove the need for risk assessments and hazard control measures altogether. But when this isn’t possible, employers need to take every possible precaution to reduce exposure and limit the potential impact that asbestos might have on employees. 

Under this piece of legislation, an employer must not let any of their employees work in an environment where they might be exposed to asbestos unless a full risk assessment has been carried out and recorded.

This risk assessment must include:

  • Identification of the type of asbestos present
  • The level and nature of potential exposure
  • Necessary control measures and their impact
  • Exposure monitoring procedures
  • Necessary measures to prevent or reduce exposure
  • Any results from medical surveillance
  • Additional information that was needed to complete the risk assessment

As well as a risk assessment, employers must also create a detailed plan of work outlining exactly how any necessary work will be carried out to avoid or minimise asbestos exposure.

This must include:

  • Details of the work taking place
  • The duration of the work
  • Any methods required for the handling of asbestos 
  • Details of the equipment required
  • Measures employees must take to comply with the regulations
  • Measures employers plan to take to comply with the regulations

As part of risk management, employers need to ensure that employees are given medical surveillance after working with or around asbestos and that records of this are kept. This ensures that, if an employee does become unwell, action can be taken to identify the cause and better control or remove this hazard.


Due to the risks presented by working with asbestos, the Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012) requires a licence to be obtained before any work with or around asbestos takes place. This licence is granted by the HSE and needs to be applied for at least 28 days before the work takes place with the correct forms.

Licensable work with asbestos is defined as:

  • Work where exposure to asbestos isn’t sporadic or low intensity 
  • Work where a risk assessment can’t prove that asbestos control limits won’t be exceeded
  • Work on asbestos coating
  • Work on asbestos insulation where the work is not short duration, not sporadic or low intensity, and it cannot be shown that the control limit won’t be exceeded

Some work with asbestos is considered non-licensed if it falls outside of these specifications. However, the latest asbestos legislation has stated that some non-licensed work still requires an enforcing authority to be notified, which is known as notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW). 


Along with securing a licence and conducting the appropriate checks and assessments before work takes place, employers are also responsible for organising and providing appropriate training for employees that are going to be working with or around asbestos. This needs to be done regularly and adapted depending on the kind of work that will be taking place.

This training must promote an awareness of:

  • Asbestos’ properties
  • The types of materials and products that commonly contain asbestos
  • The effects of asbestos on your health
  • Actions that can result in exposure to asbestos
  • Safe working practices for asbestos
  • Effective asbestos control measures
  • The importance of control measures and prevention when working with asbestos
  • The importance of air monitoring when working with asbestos
  • Control limits for air monitoring
  • Protective equipment to be worn when working with asbestos
  • How to choose and properly use protective equipment for work with asbestos, and the potential limitation of this
  • Procedures to follow in an emergency if asbestos is present
  • Decontamination procedures after working with asbestos
  • Hygiene requirements
  • Procedures for handling asbestos waste
  • Any requirement for related medical examinations


As well as protecting individual employees through risk assessments, training and the provision of protective clothing and equipment, the regulations describe how employers also need to keep the wider working environment free of asbestos exposure where possible. This involves:

  • Keeping the premises clean whilst work is being done and conducting a full, thorough clean after the work is finished
  • Designating specific asbestos areas and respirator zones
  • Preventing anyone without necessary training and equipment from entering dangerous areas
  • Controlling employee behaviour in the asbestos area or a respirator zone
  • Monitoring the air for asbestos fibres and keeping a record of this
  • Providing adequate washing and changing facilities for employees that have worked in the same area as asbestos
  • Ensuring that any asbestos waste or raw asbestos is properly stored and disposed

Why is Asbestos Law Important?

The Control of Asbestos Regulations, which are used by HSE as the leading guide for those working with the material, is important because of the serious risk asbestos presents to people’s health. Asbestos fibres are incredibly small, but exposure to them has been found to lead to several very serious and often deadly diseases, including asbestosis or fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs, lung cancer and mesothelioma.

Not only is it very difficult to identify asbestos fibres, but the symptoms of the diseases it can cause don’t actually present symptoms until a couple of decades after the exposure. This means that you cannot usually tell whether you’re being exposed to asbestos, which is why preventative measures need to be taken and work needs to be carefully planned to remove or minimise the potential risk of exposure as much as possible.

Now that the dangers of asbestos have been discovered, it is used far less frequently as a building material than it used to be. However, it is still present in many older buildings and houses which means that people working in these environments are still at risk of exposure, so the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 is still very relevant.


Who has duties under the Control of Asbestos Regulations?

Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations, the person with duties is either the owner of any non-domestic premises where asbestos is present or the company responsible for repairing and maintaining non-domestic premises. This duty might be split between leaseholders in a multi-occupied building if an arrangement is made.

Who is responsible for preventing your asbestos exposure?

It is the responsibility of whoever either owns or is responsible for maintaining a non-domestic building to protect inhabitants and those working in the environment from asbestos exposure. This responsibility includes testing building materials for asbestos, taking steps to make sure any asbestos is safely removed, and completing risk assessments to ensure that there isn’t a serious threat to health.

Who is responsible for managing the risk of asbestos?

The risk management of asbestos falls to the duty holder, who is either the owner of any non-domestic premises or the organisation responsible for the repair and maintenance of non-domestic premises. This risk must be managed by conducting risk assessments to determine any present hazards, decide how to manage these risks and ensure that these measures are regularly checked and refined so that there’s no potential for exposure.


The risks presented by working with asbestos are very serious, which is why there is official legislation and guidance that employers and duty holders must follow where asbestos is concerned. The actions that need to be taken before any work that has even the chance of exposure happens are very thorough, but this is necessary for keeping employees safe.

If you would like to learn more about the risks of asbestos and the regulations that dictate how work should take place around the material, our ‘Asbestos Awareness’ online course contains essential information and guidance for employers and dutyholders.