IOSH asbestos policy

Asbestos is the greatest single cause of work related deaths in the UK, with past exposure causing around 5,000 deaths currently each year.

Because all types of asbestos fibres are potentially harmful, IOSH believes people should be protected from inhaling them and that risk management principles should be embedded throughout our education and training system.

The facts

Our position

Because all types of asbestos fibres are potentially harmful, we believe that people should be protected from inhaling them. This includes chrysotile (white asbestos), which though less dangerous than crocidolite and amosite (blue and brown asbestos), is potentially harmful in its own right and is often found in a mixed form with other types of asbestos.

Employers, and those responsible for non-domestic premises, have a duty to manage asbestos. They should have their property checked for asbestos using a competent person and may need to use an accredited asbestos surveyor.

If existing asbestos containing material (ACM) is in good condition it can be left in place. But, the ACM (or assumed ACM) must be recorded, appropriately labelled, monitored, managed and not disturbed. If in poor condition, it must be sealed or safely removed by a competent person and any remaining asbestos recorded in an asbestos register.

To prevent exposure to asbestos fibres, we need to make sure that information about its presence is provided to anyone likely to disturb it. This is important not only in demolition, but during refurbishment and maintenance. Duty holders should also periodically check on the condition of remaining asbestos, to ensure that the decision for it to remain stays valid. All of this together forms an asbestos management plan and is far wider than a survey or register.

Our wider message around embedding risk management principles into education and training systems is fundamentally important here, so that everyone at work understands asbestos risks and how to help keep themselves (and others) safe and healthy.

IOSH's No Time to Lose campaign identifies asbestos as the top cause of work-related cancer deaths and aims to help organisations reduce exposures to this and other causes of occupational cancers.

Relevant IOSH consultation responses