Protection from Asbestos: An employer’s responsibility

If you are taking on a new business premises, it’s imperative that appropriate building surveys are carried out.

Many office spaces and domestic dwellings built between the 1970s and 1980s contain the extremely harmful substance, asbestos. Widely used in roof spaces as electrical insulation due to its resistance to fire and heat, asbestos was often mixed with cement and other building materials.

Discovering asbestos in your office building, or home for that matter, should not be taken lightly. If discovered, it should be taken as a severe health risks and the appropriate professionals must be contacted. Airborne fibres are carcinogenic and can lead to an aggressive form of cancer, Mesothelioma.

Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 any asbestos discovered on a work site must be registered and disposed of by specialists. Duty holders must, by law, see that risk assessments are carried out, along with clear plans that ensure any further health risk is eliminated. They should also provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

Failure to do so could not only increase the risk of life changing illness, but could also result in a severe punishment from the authorities such as the HSE.

Two companies based in Essex were found to have exposed workers to asbestos dust and fibres over several years, and subsequently, were heavily fined. The industrial units owned by Connect Packaging Ltd, and then sublet to Creo Retail Marketing were found to have ‘poorly encapsulated’ asbestos, and both companies had failed to act upon this knowledge.

If you are taking on a new business premises, it’s imperative that appropriate building surveys are carried out.

Madelene Holdsworth, national head of industrial disease at Slater and Gordon emphasises that ‘it’s so important that, when setting up a business, all the required checks are carried out. The presence of asbestos in a building is sometimes hard to find, and that’s why experts must be called in.

‘If you think that there is asbestos in your company’s building, you must contact the professionals or you could be liable.

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos in the past, you can find information on what to do here.

Ben Lobel

Ella Swaniawski

Ben Lobel was the editor of and from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.