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Working on ACMs

Asbestos Knowledge Base

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 regulation 7 & 8 (Plans of Work, Licencing of Work) describe the actions that employers need to take if they intend to carry out work on ACMs in their premises. The duties of the 'employer' will normally apply to the asbestos contractor involved in any work on behalf of the duty holder but the duty holder should at least be aware of the process.

Employers are required to prepare a suitable 'plan of work' before any work takes place. The plan needs to detail how work is going to be carried out and is to be made available to others. The employer is responsible for ensuring that the plan is adhered to by those carrying out the work.

An employer needs to notify the enforcing authority (local authority or HSE?) at least 14 days before commencing work on ACMs. This can be shortened by agreement with the authority and applies for work on ACMs above a minimum exposure level or the work is outside of the Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations 1983.

Work on asbestos has by law to be carried out by a licensed contractor with the exception of;

  • Articles made of rubber, plastic , resin or bitumen but which also contain asbestos (eg vinyl floor tiles, electric cables and roofing felts)
  • Other asbestos products which may be used at high temperature but have no insulation purposes, such as gaskets, washers, ropes and seals.

Work on asbestos insulation, asbestos insulating board and asbestos coatings can normally only be carried out by licensed contractors. Lower risk work such as that involving asbestos cement can be carried out by maintenance workers, providing they follow good working practices (for example following the advice in HSE guidance Asbestos Essentials.)

There are also 3 occasions when you do not need a license to work on asbestos coating, asbestos insulation and asbestos insulating board (the main products covered by the Licensing Regulations). These are;

  1. For work of short duration providing that anyone person does not carry out the work for longer than one hour in 7 consecutive days and that the total time spent on the work by all workers is no more than two hours.
  2. For air monitoring or sample collection to identify asbestos.
  3. If you are an employer carrying out work with your own employees on your own premises (in this situation the operatives still need to be competent to do the work and 14 days notification of the start of the work should be given to the HSE).

Can I take a sample to see if it contains asbestos?

The answer is yes, if you follow these points;

  • Make sure you take a representative sample (ie the full depth of the insulation if it is pipework insulation). Take care also that the material may not be asbestos in some places, but asbestos in others.
  • Take a small piece, about the size of your thumb nail.
  • Take material with the minimum of disturbance. Do not use power tools, saws etc. Look for damaged corners.
  • Keep material wet using a hand held spray or similar.
  • Place the sample in a bag, placing this bag in another bag and marking it "may contain asbestos".
  • Repair damage with strong adhesive tape or painting with sealant.
  • Take care not to contaminate surfaces whilst taking the sample. If there is contamination, use wet wipes to remove it.

If you are unsure, you should employ the services of a competent person.