What are the current asbestos regulations? Understanding Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L143 Managing & Working with Asbestos

With asbestos being such a notoriously harmful material – still, to this day, causing approximately 5,000 deaths in the UK every year, despite the substance’s use having been banned in the UK back in 1999 – it should be clear to most observers just how crucial a role asbestos regulation plays.

Although it is not known exactly how many buildings around the UK still contain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), estimates have placed this figure as high as around 1.5 million. This goes some way to indicating just how widespread the use of asbestos in construction materials once was.

acop regulations

When most people refer to “the asbestos regulations” today, it is the overarching Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, or CAR 2012, that they are typically referencing. However, it is one thing to know that CAR 2012 is the UK’s main piece of asbestos legislation, and quite another matter to understand exactly what legal duties apply to you, and how you can comply with them.

This brings us neatly onto the subject of the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L143 Managing & Working with Asbestos document, and the important role it plays in ensuring responsible, safe, and legally compliant asbestos management.

The L143 (second edition) publication – a free copy of which can be downloaded in PDF form from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)’s website – sets out crucial information and guidance for employers whose work activities may cause their workers to come into contact with asbestos.

What is ACOP L143?

As we referenced above, the initialism “ACOP” stands for “Approved Code of Practice”. As for the series code L143, the second edition is not the first HSE publication to bear it. Indeed, this latest single, revised ACOP – published in 2013 – was created through the consolidation of two previous ACOPs, L127 (The management of asbestos in non-domestic premises) and L143 (Work with materials containing asbestos).

The latest ACOP L143 document comprises the currently applicable ACOP L143, along with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and associated guidance text. The Regulations outline legal duties with regard to the management of asbestos, while the ACOP and guidance give practical advice on how compliance with these requirements can be achieved.

The ACOP L143 publication is aimed at employers intending to carry out work that will disturb, or that is likely to disturb, asbestos; it also provides information in relation to asbestos sampling and laboratory analysis. The document also sets out guidance on one of the most fundamental parts of CAR 2012: the “duty to manage” that applies to the owners of non-domestic premises and/or those responsible for the maintenance of such premises.

As is explained in the ACOP L143 document itself, the ACOP – otherwise referred to as “the Code” – has a special legal status. Employers are free to use alternative methods to those outlined in the Code in order to achieve compliance with the law. However, they should bear in mind that in the event of them being prosecuted for violation of health and safety law, they will need to show they have complied with the law in some way – otherwise, a court will find them at fault.

What is the legislation history of ACOP L143?

As we have written about in the past here at Oracle Solutions, there is a long history of asbestos regulation in the UK. However, it is also true that the rules governing how this dangerous mineral is managed were not always very stringent compared to what they are now.

Beginning with the Asbestos Industry Regulations 1931 – which covered the principal asbestos manufacturing processes of that time – and continuing through to the likes of the Asbestos Regulations 1969, the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, and the Asbestos Prohibition Regulations 1985, regulations targeting asbestos in the UK progressively tightened over the generations.

Following the final ban imposed on the importation and use of all types of asbestos in the UK in November 1999, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 (CAR 2006) effectively combined multiple existing pieces of asbestos legislation into one set of asbestos regulations. CAR 2006 was subsequently updated some years later to become the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012), which came into force on 6th April 2012.

The latter is an important point to make, given that there are certain new requirements within CAR 2012 that employers and dutyholders need to be aware of. These include additional requirements for certain types of non-licensable asbestos work, in relation to such aspects as the notification of work; the designation of areas where the employer is carrying out asbestos work; medical surveillance; and record keeping.

The revised ACOP L143 document is aimed at making legal compliance clearer to dutyholders, in addition to being modified and updated to reflect the changes that CAR 2012 brought So, it really will be an essential read for you as an employer or dutyholder seeking to ensure compliance with the latest regulations.

Who does ACOP L143 apply to?

Given that a fundamental element of the ACOP L143 publication is its inclusion of – and guidance in relation to – the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012), it is important to ask who is subject to CAR 2012, and who therefore needs to read ACOP L143.

The short answer to that question is that CAR 2012 applies to employers, employees, and those who manage the maintenance of non-domestic premises. Or to put it another way, as we did in our previous article addressing the question of who CAR 2012 applies to, there are essentially two categories of people who need to comply with that legislation: dutyholders and employers.

The HSE itself has described the ACOP L143 publication as being aimed at employers, in relation to work that disturbs, or is likely to disturb, ACMs.

In truth, there is a very wide range of individuals and organisations that are likely to benefit from reading this in-depth document, encompassing the likes of employers, building owners, and contractors – all parties that are legally obliged to take every reasonable step to ensure the safe management of asbestos on their sites.

What are the requirements and responsibilities under ACOP L143?

The ACOP L143 (second edition) publication effectively consists of three main components: the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012), the Approved Code of Practice (ACOP), and guidance text. It is crucial to understand the distinctions between these three elements, as you strive to ensure compliance with the relevant legal requirements for asbestos management.

The Regulations, for example, set out your legal duties if you are one of the aforementioned parties subject to CAR 2012 (essentially employers and dutyholders). As we have previously written about, asbestos regulations in the UK have the force of law, so employers and dutyholders must take them extremely seriously.

While the ACOP isn’t a law in itself – instead providing practical guidance on how the reader can satisfy the requirements of CAR 2012 – and it is not mandatory to comply with the ACOP, the ACOP does have a special legal status of its own, and is legally admissible in court.

What does that mean in practice for you? Well, it means if you are prosecuted for breaching health and safety law in the UK, and it is proved that you did not follow the relevant provisions of the ACOP, you will need to show that you have complied with the law in some other way. Otherwise, you can expect the court to find you at fault.

For these reasons, many employers and dutyholders simply take the approach of following the ACOP’s advice as closely as possible. If they do indeed follow this advice, they can be confident that they will be doing everything possible to achieve legal compliance, with regard to the specific matters on which the Code sets out advice.

Finally, that leaves the third major component of the ACOP L143 document, the guidance text. As is the case with the HSE’s other publications, the guidance notes contained within this document are not legally binding. They do, however, constitute potentially invaluable resources that you will appreciate as you seek to ensure CAR 2012 compliance.

What is the coverage of the asbestos regulations in the ACOP L143 document?

The ACOP L143 publication provides wide-ranging and in-depth information and guidance in relation to CAR 2012, to assist employers and dutyholders in their efforts to comply with the law. This encompasses sections addressing the following regulations:

  • Regulation 1: Citation and commencement
  • Regulation 2: Interpretation
  • Regulation 3: Application of the Regulations
  • Regulation 4: The duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises
  • Regulation 5: Identification of the presence of asbestos
  • Regulation 6: Assessment of work which exposes employees to asbestos
  • Regulation 7: Plans of work
  • Regulation 8: Licensing of work with asbestos
  • Regulation 9: Notification of work with asbestos
  • Regulation 10: Information, instruction, and training
  • Regulation 11: The prevention or reduction of exposure to asbestos
  • Regulation 12: The use of control measures, and more
  • Regulation 13: The maintenance of control measures, and more
  • Regulation 14: The provision and cleaning of protective clothing
  • Regulation 15: Arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents, and emergencies
  • Regulation 16: The duty to prevent or reduce the spread of asbestos
  • Regulation 17: The cleanliness of premises and plant
  • Regulation 18: Designated areas
  • Regulation 19: Air monitoring
  • Regulation 20: Standards for air testing and site clearance certification
  • Regulation 21: Standards for analysis
  • Regulation 22: Health records and medical surveillance
  • Regulation 23: Washing and changing facilities
  • Regulation 24: Storage, distribution, and labelling of raw asbestos and asbestos waste
  • Regulation 25: Interpretation of prohibitions
  • Regulation 26: Prohibitions of exposure to asbestos
  • Regulation 27: The labelling of products containing asbestos
  • Regulation 28: Additional provisions in the case of exceptions and exemptions
  • Regulation 29: Exemption certifications
  • Regulation 30: Exemptions related to the Ministry of Defence (MoD)
  • Regulation 31: Extension outside Great Britain
  • Regulation 32: Existing licences and exemption certificates
  • Regulation 33: Revocations and savings
  • Regulation 34: Defence
  • Regulation 35: Review

As you can see, the ACOP L143 guide goes into great detail on all manner of crucial areas of asbestos management. Whether you are an employer or a dutyholder with a need to learn more about such processes as risk assessment, training requirements, health and safety measures, reporting requirements, and/or asbestos identification, removal, handling, and disposal, you can depend on this publication as an invaluable resource, directly from the HSE.

What are the compliance and enforcement considerations?

As the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012) makes up a large proportion of the overall ACOP L143 document, when you are looking to follow the advice and requirements set out in the publication, you will also need to know about the possible legal consequences of failing to do so.

One key element of CAR 2012, for example, is the need to have an asbestos management plan in place. If you are an affected dutyholder who does not satisfy this obligation, you could be fined as much as £20,000, or imprisoned for up to six months.

A serious breach of the asbestos regulations, meanwhile, can lead to an unlimited fine and/or a two-year prison sentence.

Conclusion: the ACOP L143 guide will play a major role in your asbestos compliance efforts

There is no denying it: for any employer or dutyholder that seeks to manage and work with asbestos in ways that are both safe and in line with current UK law, there will be very few documents that are as important to them as the ACOP L143 guide.

To reiterate what we said earlier in this article, not everything contained within the ACOP L143 (second edition) publication is mandatory. Some of it is simply guidance, helping readers to better inform themselves as to what constitutes good practice in asbestos management.

Many other elements of the document, however, do have potentially very serious implications for legal compliance – as well as, of course, for human health. So, it is of the utmost importance for affected employers and dutyholders to familiarise themselves with the guide’s contents.

Would you like to learn more about any our accredited and licensed asbestos services at Oracle Solutions, including how our expertise can be key to your efforts to achieve compliance with CAR 2012 and related UK law? If so, please feel free to email us or to give us a call today.

What are the current asbestos regulations? Understanding Approved Code of Practice (ACOP) L143 Managing & Working with Asbestos 1

Written by Jess Scott

Jess Scott has been an all-round asbestos consultant since 1996. That’s nearly 3 decades of asbestos knowledge. He spends his time sharing that knowledge with the team at Oracle and with their clients. Jess's goal is, and always has been, to use my expertise in helping people to comply with the law. This legal compliance ultimately helps to protect everyone from the harmful effects of asbestos. Jess has acted as an asbestos expert witness in legal cases and is involved in many asbestos educational activities throughout the UK.