Estates Services Asbestos


Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) were commonly used in construction until the mid-1980s. Any building built before 2000, including houses, offices, schools and hospitals, can potentially contain asbestos. So, many of the University buildings have ACMs present in their fabric.

ACMs in good condition are safe. Estates Services manage and control work where ACMs are present. We ensure every effort is made to minimise the risk to staff, students, visitors and contractors. 

Asbestos is the collective term used to describe several types of naturally occurring mineral rock. It is not an artificial substance.

The three principal types of asbestos are:

  • crocidolite (blue)
  • amosite (brown)
  • chrysotile (white)

All ACMs have the potential to cause harmful effects if their fibres are inhaled. However, when asbestos are properly managed, there is very little chance of fibres being released. Where ACMs remain undisturbed they do not present a risk to health. 

Asbestos was extensively used as a building material in the UK from the 1950s through to the mid-1980s. It was used for a variety of purposes and was ideal for fireproofing and insulation. 

Within the University, asbestos can be found in:

  • thermal insulation: on pipes and boilers
  • insulation boards: for fire protection, or as thermal and acoustic insulation on walls, ceilings and structural steelwork
  • sprayed coatings: for fire protection on structural steelwork
  • ropes and yarns: as a sealing material or for filling gaps
  • asbestos cement: in wall claddings, partitions, roofing, or guttering

Asbestos may also be present in:

  • laboratories
  • inside old equipment such as ovens
  • furnaces
  • autoclaves
  • heat-resistant mats

The duty to manage asbestos is contained in regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012. It requires the person who has the duty (the University) to:

  • take reasonable steps to find out if there are materials containing asbestos in non-domestic premises. If so, find out its amount, where it is and what condition it is in
  • presume materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not
  • make, and keep up to date, a record of the location and condition of the asbestos containing materials or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos
  • assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibers from the materials identified
  • prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed
  • periodically review and monitor the plan and the arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up to date
  • provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

There is also a requirement on anyone to co-operate as far as is necessary to allow the duty holder to comply with the above requirements.

Record keeping (asbestos register)

Estates Services is responsible for maintaining a record of all the known locations of asbestos within the fabric of University buildings.  This record (the asbestos register) is the result of a survey carried out by a licensed asbestos contractor. It includes an assessment of the condition of the materials. This also includes recommended frequency for inspection. Survey results are updated at least annually and amended whenever asbestos is newly discovered or removed.

Asbestos is difficult to identify without laboratory analysis. Therefore only competent persons are permitted to take samples for asbestos analysis. This could be a licensed or UKAS accredited asbestos contractor.

Identifying asbestos

ACMs in the building fabric and laboratory equipment identified as containing asbestos should normally be marked with appropriate warning labels. Estates Services is only responsible for the building fabric. Individual departments are responsible for ensuring the identification and labelling of their own equipment. There may be circumstances where labelling is considered inappropriate. Agreement with both Safety, Health and Wellbeing (SHAW) and Estates Services should be sought in such cases.

Work on asbestos

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 sets out the way in which work may be carried out on asbestos.  Work on asbestos insulation or on asbestos insulation board may only be carried out by contractors licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). All arrangements for such work are coordinated by Estates Services. This is done in consultation with their Asbestos Coordinator.

All work on asbestos containing material carried out within the University campus is undertaken by licensed asbestos contractors.

University personnel are not permitted to work with any form of asbestos.

Prevention of uncontrolled fibers

The uncontrolled release of asbestos fibers will present a hazard to health if work at or near ACMs is carried out without proper precautions.  It is important that any work carried out within the university is properly managed to avoid the disturbance of ACMs present. This can cover work on walls, ceilings or pipe insulation. All work carried out by estates maintenance staff or contractors is done in conjunction with Estates Services' asbestos procedures.

This will involve the following

  • liaising with the Asbestos Coordinator for guidance
  • checking the Estates asbestos register
  • sampling of suspect materials
  • where work is likely to be of a destructive nature e.g. a major refurbishment or demolition, then a thorough  Refurbishment/Demolition (R&D) survey (Formerly known as a type survey) will be carried out by an accredited or certificated surveyor in conjunction with a United Kingdom Accredditation Service Service (UKAS) accredited laboratory.

Where ACMs are found to be damaged, or have deteriorated, Estates Services' Asbestos Coordinator must be informed. This is to ensure that steps can be taken to assess the situation and deal with it.

Under these circumstances in general, the following actions will be taken:

  • work will stop immediately
  • persons will be prevented from entering the area
  • new discoveries or damaged ACMs will be reported to Estates Services
  • a licensed asbestos contractor will be contacted to carry out remedial works

Removal or encapsulation of asbestos

Estates Services will decide whether asbestos materials should be removed or encapsulated, if:

  • asbestos materials are found to be damaged or in a poor condition within the fabric of a building; or
  • materials may be disturbed during the course of a job.

This will be decided in consultation with an approved asbestos removal contractor.

All such work will be carried out in accordance with HSG 247 (Asbestos – The Licensed Contractors Guide). It will be done in consultation with Estates Managements asbestos procedures.

The Control of Asbestos 2012 regulations places a duty on employers to provide instruction and training to employees whose work could potentially expose them to asbestos. Workers carrying out refurbishment or maintenance, including allied trades, are most at risk. This is because they are likely to disturb the fabric of a building during the course of their activities. All Estates Services maintenance and associated staff receive regular Asbestos Awareness training.

The asbestos register relates only to the building fabric. It does not include asbestos in laboratory equipment. This is the responsibility of individual departments. The head of department should ensure that the department keeps records that show the location of such equipment. The records should also show the condition of the asbestos if possible. Asbestos that is damaged or in poor condition must be repaired by a licensed contractor. Altenatively,the equipment should be disposed of intact as asbestos waste. Records should be kept up to date or amended following disposal or relocation of equipment.

ACMs are defined as hazardous waste and they must not be disposed of in normal waste streams. Unwanted equipment containing asbestos must be disposed of in consultation with Safety, Health and Wellbeing (SHAW)/Estates Services. All asbestos waste must be removed by licensed asbestos contractors. It must be disposed of in accordance with asbestos guidelines.

  • Departments should note that University personnel are not permitted to work with any form of asbestos. Only a licensed contractor may carry out work with asbestos.
  • Departments should be aware of the known location of ACMs in their buildings. These known locations will be recorded on the University's asbestos register. They will be identified by warning labels.
  • Where a department suspects that asbestos has been damaged or is in a poor condition (for example, flaking paint on asbestos ceiling tiles) they must inform their head of department or DSC. They must then contact Estates Services in order for remedial action to be taken.
  • Where laboratory equipment is known or suspected to contain asbestos and requires to be disposed of, departments should contact Estates Services' Asbestos Coordinator for guidance.

Asbestos A to Z

The following definitions are provided as a guide to "asbestos speak".

ACMs, Asbestos Containing Materials: this can be a product with anything from 99% asbestos concentration to less than 1% and is used to refer to the vastly different types of such material.

ACOP, Approved Code of Practice: documents produced by the Health and Safety Executive which supplement and explain the law and give guidance on compliance with the legislation. Non-compliance does not constitute a breach of the law. However, ACOPs are used as evidence of failure to do all that was reasonably practicable to comply with the law.

AIB, Asbestos Insulation Board: used primarily for fire protection, thermal insulation, partitioning, and ducts.

Amosite: brown asbestos common in AIB and sprayed coatings.

Asbestos: a natural mineral fibre obtained through a mining or quarrying process. Used extensively in construction for its valuable properties, including:

  • thermal insulation
  • flame resistance
  • acid resistance
  • strength
  • versatility.

There are three main types, Amosite, Chrysotile, and Crocidolite.

Asbestos Coordinator: A nominated person from the Estates Services department. They are responsible for managing all aspects of asbestos relating to the University estate. They ensure compliance with relevant legislation.

BOHS: British Occupational Hygiene Society. Occupational hygiene is about recognising, evaluating and controlling health hazards arising from work. Established since 1953, BOHS’s aim is simple: to help to reduce work-related ill-health. They do this by promoting public and professional awareness, good practice and standards. They also research and advance education in the science of occupational health and hygiene.

Bulk Sample: a sample of material. This could be an insulation board, thermal insulation or debris taken by a trained and accredited surveyor. It is taken to be tested for asbestos fibre content by an accredited laboratory.

CAR: Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Chrysotile: white asbestos common in asbestos cement products.

Crocidolite: blue asbestos common in sprayed coating and thermal insulation.

Environmental Clean: vacuuming of an area using vacuum cleaners fitted with HEPA filters.

HEPA: High Efficiency Particulate Arrestor. A specially constructed filter membrane used in vacuum cleaners within the industry. This allows a high volume of airflow and stops small particles of some pre-determined size from passing through.
HSE: Health and Safety Executive. The government agency responsible for regulating almost all the risks to health and safety arising from work activity in Britain.

Management Survey: formerly known as a type 2 survey, is the standard survey. Its purpose is to locate, as far as reasonably practicable, the presence and extent of any suspect ACMs in the building which could be damaged or disturbed during normal occupancy, including foreseeable maintenance and installation, and to assess their condition.

MDHS 100: Method for the Determination of Hazardous Substances. Surveying, sampling and assessment of asbestos-containing materials. This is guidance issued by the HSE to ensure proper practice and conformity in the surveying and reporting of ACMs.

Mesothelioma: a cancer of the cells that make up the lining around the outside of the lungs and inside the ribs (pleura), or around the abdominal organs (peritoneum). By the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal. Like other asbestos-related diseases, mesothelioma has a long latency period from first exposure to the onset of disease, on average 30 to 40 years.

Method Statement: the plan of work or method by which the Licensed Removal Contractor will remove and dispose of the ACMs. It will also set out the transit routes, location of skip, enclosure, location of Negative Pressure Unit etc.

Notification Period: the HSE requires a two-week notification period for work carried out to a licensable material. Site-specific risk assessments and method statements must be provided for each job.  Realistically, one should allow at least three weeks from the date of order for the work to commence.

Occupational Hygiene: ‘Hygiene’ is defined as the science behind health or the conditions or practices conducive to health. In common usage, it has taken on a much narrower definition linking it to cleanliness. This frequently leads to the misunderstanding of the term ‘occupational hygiene’. It’s NOT about washing your hands or handling food properly at work, it’s about minimising the risks of ill-health caused by the working environment.

PPE: Personal protective equipment such as overalls, masks, gloves etc.

RPE: Respiratory protective equipment.

Refurbishment/Demolition Survey: previously referred to as a type 3 survey. Intended to locate all the asbestos in the building (or the relevant part), as far as reasonably practicable. It is a disruptive and fully intrusive survey that may need to penetrate all parts of the building structure.

Shadow Vacuuming: a technique used when removing screws from AIB by way of vacuuming any dust generated in this activity at source.

UKAS: United Kingdom Accreditation Service. This is the sole national accreditation body recognised by government to assess, against internationally agreed standards, organisations that provide certification, testing, inspection and calibration services. Accreditation by UKAS demonstrates the competence, impartiality and performance capability of these evaluators.