Asbestos removal licences and certifications in the UK: What you should look for

With the importation and use of asbestos in the UK having been banned for more than two decades, it is of critical importance that those responsible for managing, maintaining, and/or repairing certain buildings in which asbestos is still present, make safe and legally compliant decisions.

There isn’t any overarching and automatic legal requirement for asbestos to always be removed from a given building that might still contain this notoriously carcinogenic material. Indeed, it is believed that if asbestos is in good condition and is not damaged or disturbed, it poses a negligible risk to health. This is why it is often left in place and simply monitored and managed over time.

Asbestos removal licences and certifications in the UK

There might be certain circumstances, however, in which asbestos is judged to present a much more serious risk. Certain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in a UK building may be located in a part of the premises where there could be a high likelihood of accidental disturbance, or the materials may show signs of deterioration or damage.

In such a situation, the owner and manager of the given property might decide to arrange the removal of the asbestos from the building. There are, however, certain legal requirements that apply to the removal of ACMs from UK sites, and if you are a dutyholder under the asbestos regulations, you will also want to be sure of hiring only a genuinely reputable asbestos removal contractor.

This is where it becomes important to know a few things about the asbestos licensing and certification regimes that exist in the UK. After all, making the wrong choice of asbestos removal contractor could mean the material is not taken out of your building and disposed of in a safe manner, which could present serious risks to health and safety (as well as legal consequences).

So, we have taken a closer look below at the role that licences and certifications play when it comes to asbestos removal. Alongside this, we have also considered what you should be looking for in your search for the right asbestos removal company or professional.

What are the asbestos removal regulations in the UK?

When you hear asbestos professionals or companies such as Oracle Solutions refer to “the asbestos regulations in the UK”, they are likely to be referring principally to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, also known as CAR 2012.

CAR 2012 is not the only piece of UK legislation of potential relevance to building owners, managers, and/or employers. Others include the likes of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations and the Health and Safety at Work etc Act.

Nonetheless, if you are responsible for a particular building and you are seeking to understand your legal obligations when it comes to asbestos management and/or removal at your site, CAR 2012 should be one of your first and most important points of reference.

CAR 2012 outlines a variety of legal requirements for those who have a “duty to manage” asbestos on a particular site. It incorporates information on the types of asbestos work that require a licence, and those that don’t. It also sets out what the requirements are in relation to asbestos work for which a licence is needed, and asbestos work that can be carried out without a licence.

It is of critical importance to ensure you comply with all aspects of the UK asbestos regulations. As we have written about in the past here at Oracle Solutions, breaches of the regulations can lead to fines and/or imprisonment; in the case of serious violations of the rules, an unlimited fine and/or a prison sentence of up to two years can be handed down.

All of this is before we even account for the possible health and safety implications of asbestos not being managed in your property in a legally compliant manner.

If ACMs are disturbed or damaged, they may release loose asbestos fibres, which could then be breathed in by someone nearby. This can elevate the exposed individual’s risk of developing a potentially fatal health condition, such as mesothelioma or asbestos-related lung cancer, many years or even decades later.

What are the essential licences for asbestos removal in the UK?

One of the most important things to know about asbestos removal in England, Wales, and Scotland, is that a licence – issued by the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) – is likely to be required in order to carry out this form of asbestos work.

However, it isn’t necessarily the case that you will definitely need to have a licence if you wish to remove asbestos from a site for which you are responsible.

As far as asbestos removal work is concerned, there are three broad categories:

  • Licensable asbestos removal work Where an asbestos removal project is judged to pose a particularly high risk, it will be necessary for a HSE-licensed contractor to carry out this work.Example of licensable asbestos removal work include the removal of sprayed coatings (limpet asbestos), as well as any removal work that may disturb pipe lagging. Any asbestos work involving loose fill insulation will also need to be undertaken by someone who holds a licence.
  • Non-licensed asbestos removal work Not all asbestos removal jobs in the UK will necessarily be perceived as being dangerous enough to necessitate the person who wishes to carry out this work holding a HSE licence.The removal of asbestos cement products, such as roof sheeting, might not require a licence if the material is carefully handled and removed without being broken up.
  • Notifiable non-licensed asbestos removal work (NNLW) There might be certain asbestos removal tasks that don’t need a HSE licence, but for which it may be necessary to notify the work to the relevant enforcing authority.Potential examples of NNLW from an asbestos removal perspective include the short-duration removal of asbestos insulating board as part of a refurbishment project, as well as the removal of asbestos cement products such as roof sheeting, where the material has been substantially damaged or broken up (for example, as a consequence of fire or flood damage).

According to the UK Government, a licence is required for asbestos work if the work is on a medium to large scale, as well as if the work involves asbestos insulation that cannot be removed without being broken. Examples of such asbestos insulation include pipe and boiler lagging, sprayed asbestos coatings, and asbestos insulating board.

There are certain circumstances in which it might be legally permissible to remove particular types of ACMs without obtaining a HSE licence. These include if the ACMs to be removed are asbestos cement products, backing board from textured coatings, vinyl floor tiles, or resin-based materials such as gaskets or brake linings.

However, for the above to apply, the work must also be of low intensity, with the concentration of asbestos not exceeding 0.6 fibres per cm3 over a 10-minute period. Furthermore, the ACMs must be intact.

If you are in any doubt about whether certain asbestos removal work you are looking to have carried out will require a HSE-licensed contractor, we would urge you to consult the HSE’s guidance on how to make this determination. You are also welcome to seek advice from the Oracle Solutions team, by calling us or sending us an email.

What are the key certifications that asbestos contractors need?

It is crucial from a legal perspective to make sure you hire only a licensed asbestos removal contractor, presuming that your intended work necessitates this. However, in the process of deciding on the asbestos removal contractor that best matches your needs, you might also take into account certain accreditations and/or certifications that a particular company or contractor holds.

Examples of such accreditations and certifications to look out for include:

  • ISO ISO stands for “International Organization for Standardization”, which is an independent non-governmental organization that develops globally applicable standards.If a given asbestos removal business that you are considering holds ISO certifications such as ISO 9001 – which relates to organisations’ quality management systems – this could be an encouraging indicator of its reputability.Other possibly relevant ISO certifications include the likes of ISO 14001, ISO 27001, and ISO 45001, which cover environmental management, information security management, and health and safety management respectively.
  • CHAS CHAS is the UK’s leading health and safety assessment scheme. So, if the asbestos removal company you are considering is Contractor Health and Safety Assessment Scheme accredited for health and safety, this should give you confidence that the contractor in question practises a high standard of health and safety compliance when removing asbestos from sites.
  • Constructionline Gold Constructionline is a register for pre-qualified contractors and consultants used in the UK construction sector, including those that carry out asbestos removal work.If you are comparing asbestos removal companies online, and you notice that the one you are considering holds Constructionline Gold certification for Health and Safety, this indicates the company has been subject to a particularly high level of scrutiny with regard to its governance and risk management. Such scrutiny involves regular audits by Constructionline itself.
  • ACAD Those letters stand for Asbestos Control & Abatement Division; ACAD is the UK’s leading trade association in the asbestos removal and remediation field.A particular asbestos removal company that you are considering being ACAD certified, then, is a good sign, especially as such firms need to open themselves up to regular site and office audits in order to gain, and then keep hold of, this certification.
  • SafeContractor As the name indicates, if you want to be sure of hiring a genuinely “safe contractor” for your asbestos removal requirements, it will really help to choose a company or contractor that is Alcumus Safe Contractor approved for Health and Safety.A particular asbestos removal company holding such certification indicates it is subject to regular audits by SafeContractor, and that scrutiny has been applied to the given company’s team training and facilities. All in all, a company that is SafeContractor certified is one you can expect to practise some of the very highest standards of health and safety.

It should be noted that all the above are preferred, rather than strictly required certifications. Nonetheless, choosing to only work with an accredited asbestos removal company should give you much-improved peace of mind, in addition to contributing positively to your own organisation’s health and safety culture.

How important is insurance and asbestos training?

If you follow all the above advice in this article, you will be placing yourself in a strong position to ensure you only choose a genuinely trustworthy and capable asbestos removal contractor.

However, it is also true that no matter how capable your chosen asbestos removal contractor or company may be, asbestos is a hazardous and potentially life-threatening substance. The removal of asbestos is therefore high-risk work, which makes it crucial for asbestos contractors to hold insurance in case of any accidents occurring (regardless of how small the risk of this may be).

The asbestos removal contractor that you choose should hold professional indemnity insurance, for example. This will cover for any legal costs, expenses, and any compensation that may be payable to you in the event of the contractor making a mistake in the information and advice they provide.

Moreover, you should make sure your chosen asbestos removal contractor holds public and products liability insurance. This will provide cover against the risk of personal injury or damage to a property arising from any product or service that the asbestos removal contractor or company provides to you.

When such insurance policies are combined with a high level of asbestos training having been provided to the personnel who will be carrying out the removal of ACMs on your site, you will be able to have the utmost confidence in the work being undertaken in a safe and compliant manner.

We have previously written extensively here at Oracle Solutions about the qualifications that those planning to undertake asbestos removal work should hold. Reading our article on that subject, alongside our guide to choosing an asbestos removal company – the latter also addressing such vital factors as expertise, experience, and the procedures and equipment used – will help you make an informed and sensible decision when you need this kind of work to be carried out.

Conclusion: due diligence is crucial for making an informed choice

Although – as we touched on above – licensing and certifications are far from the only elements you should be considering as you whittle down the possibilities for your next asbestos removal contractor, there are many reasons why they should rank highly as priorities.

The reality is that you cannot always trust an asbestos removal company or contractor to possess the level of competence and knowhow they claim to possess. So, taking a close look at the licensing and certifications that a particular contractor holds – with both factors necessitating some kind of third-party approval of the given contractor or company – can reveal important insights about skill, knowledge, and all-round reputability.

Here at Oracle Solutions, we would always urge any individual or organisation that needs to arrange for the removal of asbestos from a given site, to carry out extensive due diligence, and to not simply place their trust in the first asbestos removal contractor they find online. Informed decision-making will always be crucial when it comes to the management of asbestos, and the process of deciding on the most suitable asbestos removal specialist is no different in this regard.

Would you like to discuss our own asbestos removal services here at Oracle Solutions, and to request a free and fast quote? If so, we would be pleased to advise and assist when you call us; you are also welcome to get in touch with us via email.

Asbestos removal licences and certifications in the UK: What you should look for 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.