The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2012 specify the requirement for health surveillance for asbestos workers.

Licensed work

Where exposure is not sporadic and of low intensity, or where the risk assessment cannot clearly demonstrate that the control limit of 0.1 asbestos fibre per cubic centimetre of air will not be exceeded or where work other than short duration is being done on asbestos insulation or absestos board, the work must be done by a licensed contractor.  Initial and periodic medical examinations must be carried out by a doctor who is either an HSE Medical Inspector or an HSE Appointed Doctor.

Notifiable non-licensed work

Where the following is undertaken:

  • asbestos cement products are being removed and are substantially damaged
  • asbestos paper and cardboard produces that are not firmly bonded in a matrix are being removed
  • large-scale removal of textured decorative coatings using steaming or gelling
  • minor short duration work removing asbestos insulating board or repairing minor damage to asbestos insulation

a licence is required and workers must have a chest examination and a test to check lung performance undertaken by a suitably qualified doctor before starting work and at intervals of not more than three years.  Currently fire fighters are considered to be doing notifiable non-licensed work because of the potential to be exposed to asbestos during a fire.  This is due to be reviewed over the next few years as the requirement for health surveillance for firefighters in these circumstances is not considered appropriate and it is expected to change.

The HSE expects employers to take a commonsense approach, so if work is genuinely a one-off, or a very rare occurrence, it would be disproportionate to require a medical.  The worker will still need to take appropriate precautions.

Non-licensed work

Cleaning up small quantities of loose or fine debris containing asbestos dust, drilling of textured decorative coatings, encapsulation or sealing-in work, maintenance of asbestos containing products and removal of asbestos cement products or coatings without breaking up or deterioration does not require a licence or health surveillance.

Employers will find detailed guidelines on risk assessment and health surveillance for asbestos at work in the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance book L143.