Will the UK ever be asbestos-safe?

Acorn Analytical Services

At Acorn Analytical Services we’re regularly asked by clients and friends if there’s enough asbestos left in the country to see us out.

Sadly, the answer is yes, and not just us but generations to come.

Any building built here before 2000 may contain asbestos. Some experts have suggested that 1.5 million UK buildings contain asbestos, including public buildings and home, and that asbestos is likely to be present in 75 per cent of English schools.

What are other places doing to make themselves asbestos-safe?

Asbestos is a worldwide problem. That’s why, even today, when many countries have banned the use of asbestos, the hazardous substance still remains the world’s biggest workplace killer.

So, it’s interesting to see how other places attempt to make themselves asbestos-safe.

The Flemish government in Belgium has taken a risk-based approach to tackling their huge asbestos legacy and have plans to become ‘asbestos-safe’ in less than 20 years.

A report by IOSH Magazine a few weeks ago into the Flemish government’s approach revealed the decision was taken after the Public Waste Agency of Flanders (OVAM) compared national and international studies, undertook sector enquiries and ran pilot projects, and emphasised the need for a more immediate and proactive approach.

The government’s plans include the phasing out of the most risky asbestos by 2034 and all other asbestos, which is in a poor condition, by 2040.

Currently, workplaces must provide an asbestos inventory and this requirement is going to be extended to homeowners.

Their plans also include the creation of a new central database which will document current and future asbestos inventories that are collected from the region’s building stock and so far, it has removed asbestos from 500 schools.

What is Great Britain doing to be asbestos-safe?

There are rules here to manage asbestos in all non-domestic buildings and in the common areas of domestic buildings.

People have a legal duty to manage asbestos in these situations if they:

  • own the building
  • are responsible through a contract or tenancy agreement
  • have control of the building but no formal contract or agreement
  • are the owner of a multi-occupancy building and have taken responsibility for maintenance and repairs for the whole building.

The duty to manage asbestos is all about putting in place the practical steps necessary to protect maintenance workers and others from the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres – it’s not about removing all asbestos.

Failure to follow this advice can lead to people being exposed to asbestos and companies and company owners and managers may find themselves being prosecuted.

How can I take steps to becoming asbestos-safe?

The first step to becoming asbestos-safe is to find out what asbestos you have at your property and what state it’s in by having an asbestos survey.

We also have lots of free resources to help you educate yourself, including our publication, Asbestos The Dark Arts.

Once you’ve educated yourself share your knowledge with others like people at your workplace or your child’s school. Find out what they know and if they need assistance advise them to get help.

Acorn is a professional asbestos consultancy helping organisations deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. 

If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us.