Safety Safety Guidance

Safety Guidance – Asbestos in Soils

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Published January 2024

Works which involve or encounter asbestos fall under the requirements of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). This requires that before works commence which involve the risk of disturbance of asbestos in buildings or in the ground, an employer should first undertake an assessment of historical information to determine if the area likely to be disturbed by works is likely to contain asbestos-containing material (ACM) and therefore the location(s), type and condition of such ACM.

CAR 2012 also requires employers to carry out a risk assessment to identify the risks of exposure to asbestos and sets out the requirement to record any significant findings and put in place steps to prevent, or reduce, exposure to employees.

AGS members may act as designers or contractors and may be appointed as principal designer or principal contractor, in all instances a Designer’s Risk Assessment should be completed and any information relevant to the likelihood of encountering asbestos during the work should be provided in the Pre-Construction Information. The contractor/s must use this information to assess the risks which may apply to their work and adopt control measures to eliminate or mitigate the risk. All parties should make the client aware of these requirements to ensure that every party is clear on their role and responsibilities.

The British Standard BS 10175:2011+A2:2017 states that, ‘potentially, 80% to 90% of the United Kingdom’s brownfield sites might be contaminated to a degree by asbestos from fly-tipping of wastes, demolition, repair, and importation of fill materials’. This may be just one small fragment of ACM, or widespread uncontrolled historical burial of ACM. Add to this, recycled aggregates from demolition and recycled soils used in construction (embankments, landscaping, noise bunds, piling mats etc) and even sediments from urban areas, and it is reasonably foreseeable that anything except genuine greenfield sites without any Made Ground could potentially contain asbestos.

Frequently, no ACMs are seen during fieldwork, but subsequent laboratory testing of geotechnical and geoenvironmental samples then records significant amounts of small or microscopic fragments of ACMs and/or free dispersed asbestos fibres that are invisible to the naked eye. In undertaking ground investigation, disturbance and spreading of ACMs and airborne exposure to respirable asbestos fibres could occur unwittingly because its presence is not presumed and therefore, not managed correctly by trained and competent persons with the right equipment and a safe system of work.

More detailed guidance can be found on the AGS website regarding the Assessment and Control of Asbestos Risk in Soil: 2021 and within the Joint Industry Working Group (JIWG) guidance CAR-SOIL (2016) which was prepared by CL:AIRE with the support and approval of the HSE. The AGS guidance referenced above, is split into two parts to provide guidance for personnel working on site and within a laboratory environment. The detailed guidance is produced for and use by trained and competent persons who have a working knowledge of the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2012), its ACOP L143, CAR-SOIL and its Decision Support Tools (DSTs).