What is a notification or waiver for work with asbestos?

In situations where work is to be carried out on asbestos at a particular site, and the intended work must be undertaken by someone who holds a licence from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), it is crucial to know about notifications and waivers, and how they work.

It has not been legal to use asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) – such as asbestos insulating board (AIB), asbestos cement products, or asbestos textiles or gaskets – in the UK construction sector since 1999. This ban was put in place due to recognition of the extremely serious health risks the mineral presented to those breathing in or ingesting its fibres.

What is a notification or waiver for work with asbestos?

However, with asbestos having been used so extensively in the UK for about a century by the time it was outlawed, the material remained present in as many as 1.5 million buildings up and down the country. There is, then, still a need for the sensible and safe management of ACMs in all manner of public, commercial, and residential properties around the UK, which may include licensed asbestos removal in some cases.

In the UK of the 2020s, such stakeholders as tradespeople, builders, and commercial property owners need to know about – and comply with – the stringent asbestos-related legislation, spearheaded by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). Indeed, it is Regulation 9 of CAR 2012 that explicitly addresses the requirements for notification of work with asbestos.

The need for notification applies specifically to licensable asbestos work, as well as some forms of non-licensable asbestos work (under the “notifiable non-licensed work”, or NNLW, banner). Notification presents the relevant enforcing authority with the opportunity to assess the proposals for carrying out such work. This, in turn, enables the authority to inspect the site either prior to or during the work, if it judges this to be necessary.

What constitutes work with asbestos?

The term “asbestos work” or “work with asbestos” can refer to any of a range of tasks that involve the relevant contractor working directly on asbestos materials. This can encompass various situations in which ACMs may be removed, repaired, and/or otherwise disturbed at a given site or premises.

Given the major risks that work with or on asbestos can pose – direct disturbance, for instance, potentially causing dangerous asbestos fibres to be released into the air, and subsequently breathed in or swallowed – it is of the very greatest importance to always comply with relevant legal requirements.

Although not all forms of asbestos work need to be done by a licensed professional, most higher-risk work with the now-banned substance will be subject to this requirement. If certain asbestos work does need to be carried out by a licensed contractor, the appropriate enforcing authority must be notified with details of the proposed work a minimum of 14 days prior to work starting.

It is the employer of anyone whose work might involve asbestos, who will be responsible for deciding whether the given work is licensable. Examples of licensable work (and this is not an exhaustive list) include such tasks as the removal of sprayed coatings (limpet asbestos), removal or other work which may disturb pipe lagging, and any work involving loose fill insulation. So, notification will be needed for all these jobs.

What is a notification for work with asbestos?

As aforementioned, it is Regulation 9 of CAR 2012 that puts in place a legal requirement to provide notification in the case of asbestos work that calls for the use of an HSE-licensed contractor. This is crucial for helping to ensure the safety and legal compliance of the given work with asbestos.

Specifically, it is a condition of the given professional’s licence that they notify the relevant enforcing authority – which will be either the HSE or the local authority – with information about the proposed work at least 14 days before it is due to start.

A valid notification for licensable asbestos work will take the form of a completed ASB5 form (or equivalent), alongside a suitable and sufficient plan of work (otherwise known as a “POW” or “method statement”) and equipment specification, and a copy of the licence. Each licence holder who participates in a particular job (whether they are a full, supervisory, or ancillary licence holder) will need to submit a notification of their own.

It is important to emphasise, however, that the exact process of notifying will be different depending on whether the work is licensable asbestos work or NNLW. The notification process for NNLW is the simpler of the two. An online notifications form (ASB NNLW1) is available for the latter, and there is no minimum advance notice period for NNLW tasks.

When is notification required for asbestos work?

Present UK law makes clear that notification is required for licensable asbestos work, as well as for certain non-licensable asbestos work for which a notification requirement nonetheless applies. So, you can find out whether notification is needed by determining which specific category your intended asbestos work falls into.

An asbestos-related job will be considered licensable, for instance, if the exposure of workers to asbestos is not sporadic and of low intensity. The work will also be licensable if the risk assessment is unable to clearly demonstrate that the control limit will not be exceeded.

Work on asbestos coating and asbestos millboard, as well as the cleaning-up of significant quantities of loose/fine debris containing asbestos dust (where the work is not sporadic and of low intensity, the control limit will be exceeded, or it is not short-duration work) are all examples of licensable asbestos work.

On the other hand, the asbestos-related task that you intend to have carried out may be non-licensable, but it may nonetheless still come with a notification requirement.

If you have determined that the asbestos work you will be undertaking does not need an HSE licence, you will then need to determine whether it is notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW). This will be dictated by such factors as the type of work, the asbestos type, and the material’s condition.

Examples of NNLW with asbestos include the large-scale removal of textured decorative coatings using steaming or gelling methods (beyond that required for such maintenance activities as the installation of smoke alarms), and the removal of asbestos cement products where the material has been substantially damaged or broken up.

How do you submit a notification for asbestos work?

The exact process for submitting a notification will depend on whether the given work is licensable, or instead notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW).

  • For licensable work, the relevant enforcing authority will need to be notified in writing a minimum of 14 days before any licensable work commences (unless the authority allows a shorter period than this; see details on waivers below). The notification form FOD ASB5 can be obtained from the HSE website, local HSE offices, or the Asbestos Licensing Unit.
  • For notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW), the online notification form ASB NNLW1 must be used. This form can be used to notify all three enforcing authorities (the HSE, local authorities, and the Office of Rail and Road, or ORR). Although notification should take place before the work begins, there is no stipulated minimum prior notice period.

What is a waiver for asbestos work, and when is it applicable?

We stated earlier in this article that in the case of licensable asbestos work, notification of the relevant enforcing authority office needs to be done, in writing, at least 14 days before the given work starts. However, in certain circumstances – for example, an emergency where a serious risk is presented to an individual’s health and safety – a shorter notice period than this may be permitted. This shorter period is known as a “waiver” or “dispensation”.

The HSE’s policy is to only grant waiver requests where there is a genuine emergency or an equally pressing reason. It may be possible for you get a waiver in situations such as:

  • An imminent risk being posed to health, the environment, or where there is public alarm, and the risk cannot be avoided simply by leaving the area and allowing it to remain undisturbed, and/or the area cannot be sealed;
  • Asbestos being found during work, with its presence not having been reasonably foreseeable or reasonably practicable to detect (e.g. unless an intrusive survey was undertaken), and where the delay caused by waiting for the 14-day notification period to pass prior to dealing with the asbestos would lead to significant financial loss;
  • A breakdown in plant or equipment having occurred, necessitating urgent remedial action;
  • There being worry or hardship for domestic clients, including old or infirm people.

It is unlikely that the HSE will grant a waiver simply because of a client or contractor having lacked adequate planning or foresight, unless an immediate risk of significant exposure has been created and it is not possible to seal off the area concerned to prevent this exposure.

If a given contractor does wish to ask for a waiver, their request will need to be accompanied by the ASB5 and a suitable and sufficient method statement and equipment specification, as well as written confirmation from their client in support of the request (consisting of evidence from the client of there being a genuine emergency or an equally pressing reason).

How can tradespeople and dutyholders ensure compliance?

In order to keep on top of their obligations in relation to notifications and waivers, tradespeople and dutyholders under CAR 2012 are advised to familiarise themselves with the legal requirements and best practices.

Such HSE publications as Asbestos: The licensed contractors’ guide (HSG247) and Managing and working with asbestos (L143) can be downloaded as free PDFs from the regulator’s own website. These books provide in-depth information on such aspects as risk assessments, plans of work, and the paperwork that should be on-site, as well as the notification requirements in relation to both licensable asbestos work and NNLW.

The HSE website also contains a section on asbestos safety that will also help inform you on the steps you need to follow for asbestos work – including determining whether particular work does or doesn’t need to be undertaken by a licensed contractor.

Conclusion: the importance of notifications and waivers in asbestos safety

Notifications and waivers both play critical roles in the promotion of safe asbestos work practices and the protection of public health.

If you are reading this as a key stakeholder in any kind of asbestos work – such as a property owner, asbestos professional, or dutyholder under CAR 2012 – we would encourage you to prioritise adherence to the HSE and legal requirements for notifications and waivers. Doing so will contribute greatly to ensuring the highest standards of safety and regulatory compliance.

Do you require high-quality asbestos services from a nationally trusted, accredited, and licensed company? If so, please don’t hesitate to call Oracle Solutions today, or to send us an email requesting a fast and free quote.

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Written by Brendan Coleman

Brendan Coleman, with decades of experience in the asbestos industry, is a dedicated Quality Manager. Certified as a surveyor and analyst, he is adept in operations and quality management with a keen focus on HSE compliance. His expertise is pivotal in maintaining high safety and efficiency standards. Brendan ensures our UKAS accreditation requirements are consistently met and exceeded, upholding stringent standards in asbestos remediation. His commitment to enhancing quality and customer satisfaction makes him an essential advisor in asbestos management.