How long should asbestos records be kept?

Record-keeping is an essential part of asbestos health and safety management. Since asbestos exposure is associated with serious, life-threatening diseases, including different types of cancer, maintaining health records is crucial to protecting employee safety over the long term. In addition to protecting everyone’s health, having adequate records ensures compliance with the law.

How long should asbestos records be kept?

What types of asbestos records must be maintained?

There are many types of asbestos records and essential documents that the duty holder should maintain, including:

  • Asbestos Survey: Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are assessed and analysed to determine if they’re unsafe to be around.
  • Asbestos Register: Live document with current information about ACMs on the property.
  • Asbestos Management Plan / Risk Assessment: Details about planned asbestos work, the type of asbestos involved, standard and emergency procedures, etc.
  • Asbestos Training: Asbestos awareness or other types of asbestos training that earn a certificate.
  • Employee Health Records: Asbestos work information and medical exam dates for any employee exposed to asbestos.

Different types of documentation have different requirements for maintaining and retaining them. When it comes to maintaining asbestos-related records, most of the focus is on employee health records.

Why should I keep employee health records?

There are a number of reasons to maintain health records for your employees. Ultimately, doing so keeps the worker protected and also provides the business owner with the necessary documents they may need to show to the authorities at some point.

Legal Compliance

Asbestos legislation often requires that health records be maintained and retained following specific guidelines. Inspectors with the HSE may also ask to see health and safety records at any time.

Other Types of Compliance

Workplace safety policies, liability insurance coverage, and other types of agreements may require that worker health records be kept up to date for a certain amount of time.

Legal Defence

In the event of a legal complaint or case, you may need to show an employee’s health records. Having them available could potentially help you with your defence.

What is the legal requirement for maintaining employee health records?

There are slight differences in what’s legally required for licensable vs. non-licensed asbestos work in the UK.

Licensable asbestos work

According to The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, when licensable asbestos work takes place, the employer must do the following:

  • Maintain a health record and important details for any employee exposed to asbestos.
  • Keep the record (or a copy of it) for a minimum of 40 years from the date of the last entry.
  • Ensure that any employee who’s been exposed to asbestos has adequate medical care.

There are specific guidelines for the required medical surveillance, too:

  • An acceptable medical exam cannot be from earlier than two years before the start of the asbestos exposure.
  • Periodic exams must take place a minimum of one time every two years while the asbestos exposure continues.
  • If the doctor requires more frequent exams, the suggested timeline must be followed.
  • The medical exams must examine the chest.

The doctor must provide a certificate of the exam to the employee and the employer that confirms the examination took place and the date of the exam. The employer is required to retain the certificate (or a copy of it) for a minimum of four years from the date it was issued.

Non-licensed asbestos work

While certain types of asbestos work don’t need a licence, notifying the authorities may still be a requirement. This is called notifiable non-licensed work. In these cases, the employer’s duties include:

  • Notifying an enforcing authority about the planned asbestos work
  • Identifying the areas of the property where the asbestos work will take place
  • Ensuring that workers receive medical examinations
  • Maintaining health records for any involved employees

When non-licensable asbestos work takes place, the employer must follow the same guidelines as for licensable work, with these exceptions:

  • An acceptable medical exam cannot be from earlier than three years before the start of the asbestos exposure.
  • Periodic exams must take place a minimum of one time every three years while the asbestos exposure continues.

How should the authorities be notified about non-licensable work?

To notify the relevant authority, an online notification form can be filled out. Note that the only notification option is online — it’s not possible to notify the authority over the phone or by mail.

What should the health record for each employee include?

Each employee’s health record should include the following:

  • Worker’s full name
  • Nature of the asbestos work
  • Duration of asbestos work
  • Estimate of exposure duration
  • Dates of the worker’s medical exams

If you’re submitting a notification form, you can simply add this information to the form. Since it will already include details about the job and the type of asbestos being worked with, adding the workers’ names and exam dates may be sufficient.

What are the guidelines for updating and keeping other asbestos records?

There are different guidelines for maintaining records based on the specific asbestos documentation you’re dealing with.

In general, any non-domestic property constructed before 2000 should already have asbestos documentation, like a survey or register. Asbestos surveys, registers, and management plans are live documents, meaning they should exist for as long as the property exists and should be updated regularly.

If this documentation already exists for the property, the duty holder must keep it updated as needed.

However, if the documentation doesn’t yet exist, it’s critical that you go through the necessary steps immediately. You’ll need to hire a professional to conduct an asbestos survey, create an asbestos register, draw up a management plan, etc.

How long is an asbestos survey valid?

An asbestos survey’s validity depends on what’s found. If no asbestos is found in the building, you may never need another survey.

However, if you plan to renovate the building, you’ll need a refurbishment or demolition survey. The survey’s results will be valid for one year. After that, you may need to get another survey if you still plan to conduct work.

We go over this in more detail in our article How Often Must You Have An Asbestos Survey?

How often should I update the asbestos register and asbestos management plan?

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), your asbestos register should be updated a minimum of once per year. This should be part of your review to ensure the asbestos management plan is up-to-date.

Regularly checking on ACMs ensures that you know if there’s been any disturbance or damage that could lead to an asbestos exposure event. If you find any changes, update the register accordingly.

This may also lead to changes needed in the asbestos management plan. For example, if an ACM that was in good condition last year is now worn down and falling apart, your asbestos management plan will need to include a plan for having it removed.

How often do I need asbestos training?

There are three main types of asbestos training, and it’s common to receive a certificate upon completion:

  1. Asbestos awareness
  2. Non-licensable asbestos work training
  3. Licensable asbestos work training

While certificates are not legally required and don’t show proof of competency, they can provide a record to show that the employee underwent a specific type of training. Also, once a certificate has expired, the employee may not need a full training course again—there are specific refresher courses for those who have already gone through initial training courses.

Asbestos awareness training

Asbestos awareness training is typically optional, as it doesn’t prepare employees to work with asbestos. Instead, it provides direction on how to avoid ACMs and asbestos exposure. While course certificates are valid for one year, there’s no legal obligation to refresh training.

Non-licensable and licensable asbestos work training

Training for non-licensable and licensable asbestos is required by the HSE. The HSE’s asbestos training guidelines state, “Refreshing information instruction and training for licensable and non-licensable work should be appropriate to the work each worker is doing and be based on training needs analysis (TNA) that will help to decide what is needed.”

Furthermore, refresher instruction and training should be provided a minimum of once per year, though it may be needed more frequently depending on competency, planned work, and other specifics.

Maintaining training records

The HSE doesn’t indicate how long training records should be kept. However, it is suggested that employers keep these training records on hand. Doing so can help the employer determine what type of training an employee may need.

Final thoughts about asbestos record-keeping

Maintaining any and all records related to asbestos work and the employees involved enhances health and safety as well as legal compliance.

Some asbestos-related records, like employee health records, must be retained for 40 years. Other records, like a property’s asbestos register and asbestos management plan, are living documents, meaning they should be retained and updated for as long as the property exists.

As a duty holder, it’s important to maintain records according to legal guidelines as well as to keep workers safe regardless of whether or not there’s a legal guideline for specific documentation.

How long should asbestos records be kept? 1

Written by Callum McDonald

Callum McDonald is an expert in asbestos quality management, ensuring rigorous adherence to regulations and high-quality standards in removal projects. His focus on enhancing quality and client satisfaction makes him a crucial asset in safety and compliance within the field. Callum's expertise in technical support and oversight of licensed works underscores his commitment to excellence in asbestos management, providing invaluable guidance to clients in this specialised area.