Work with harmful materials. Shadow DOF. Developed from RAW; retouched with special care and attention; Small amount of grain added for best final impression. 16 bit Adobe RGB color profile.

Regulations and legislation for hazardous substances

Hazardous substances are commonly used in the workplace but what are the regulations and legislation that you should be following to make sure that any risk to your workers are reduced or dealt with.

When it comes to hazardous substances there are 3 main pieces of legislation that you should be aware of. These are as follows:

  • Control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH)
  • Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations 2002 (DSEAR)
  • The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012


Work with harmful materials. Shadow DOF. Developed from RAW; retouched with special care and attention; Small amount of grain added for best final impression.

COSHH is the law that requires an employer to control substances that could be hazardous to health, and this includes nano-materials. Here are a list of bullet points you can work through to help with reducing risks involved with using hazardous substances:

  • finding out what the health hazards are
  • deciding how to prevent harm to health (risk assessment)
  • providing control measures to reduce harm to health
  • making sure they are used
  • keeping all control measures in good working order
  • providing information, instruction and training for employees and others
  • providing monitoring and health surveillance in appropriate cases
  • planning for emergencies.

Most businesses will use substances or materials made from several substances that could cause harm to employees, customers, or the public. Not all hazardous substances are marked and obvious so make sure to check any new products you might use, and risk assess the accordingly.

Further information can be found on HSE’s COSHH website.


Metallurgical plant, hot metal casting

DSEAR requires an employer to control the risks of fire and explosions.

Dangerous substances can put those who come into contact with that environment at great risk. This could be customers, employees, or the public. DSEAR puts the responsibility on the employer or those who are self-employed to make sure that all risks to those who could be harmed are suitably controlled.

Dangerous substances include anything used or present at work that could, if not properly controlled, cause harm to people as a result of a fire or explosion or corrosion of metal. They can be found in nearly all workplaces and include such things as solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases, such as liquid petroleum gas (LPG), dusts from machining and sanding operations, dusts from foodstuffs, pressurised gases, and substances corrosive to metal.

Employers must:

  • find out what dangerous substances are in their workplace and what the risks are
  • put control measures in place to either remove those risks or, where this is not possible, control them
  • put controls in place to reduce the effects of any incidents involving dangerous substances
  • prepare plans and procedures to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies involving dangerous substances
  • make sure employees are properly informed about and trained to control or deal with the risks from the dangerous substances
  • identify and classify areas of the workplace where explosive atmospheres may occur and avoid ignition sources (from unprotected equipment, for example) in those areas

The Control of Asbestos Regulations:

Man clearing asbestos from old roof / Hazardous substances

The control of asbestos regulations came into place on April 6 2012, and were released to update the previous regulations to take into account the European Commission’s view that the UK had not fully implemented the EU Directive on exposure to asbestos (Directive 2009/148/EC).

Asbestos is responsible for almost 4000 deaths per year in the UK. It was used in a range of building but was commonly used in commercial buildings that were constructed before the year 2000.

The legislation now states that the “duty holder”(who is responsible for the building, so may be the owner or the person in charge of maintenance) must conduct an assessment as to whether the building contains asbestos. If asbestos is present but in good condition and undisturbed it can be left but will need to be closely monitored to avoid it becoming an issue. If asbestos is found within the property and has been disturbed, then you will need to have it removed. Anyone carrying out the work should be properly trained in handling the material and should be aware of the risks involved.


COSHH, DSEAR and the control of asbestos are all important when it comes to keeping your workforce safe from hazardous substances and other laws such as the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 set out the responsibility for employers to protect their workers and the public from the effects of exposure to hazardous substances.

Danger asbestos - sign outside a derelict building

Managing Asbestos Risks

Keeping your team safe from asbestos risks

Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibre that was once used in most construction projects in the UK as insulation or a roofing or flooring material. Projects could range from housing, office blocks, factories, schools, hospitals or even shipbuilding.

It was completely banned from being used in the UK in 1999 due to health concerns, but buildings that were constructed before the ban came in may still contain it, which can pose a risk to your team. As an extremely dangerous carcinogen, you require a licence to work around asbestos.

Take a look at our guidance on how you can keep your team safe from the risks of working around asbestos.

Why is asbestos so dangerous?

Asbestos is made up of many fibres that can be released into the air if damaged or disturbed. If these fibres are inhaled, they won’t cause immediate damage but can lead to serious health complications in the long run.

Asbestos removal / SMAS Worksafe

These are some of the health complications that can arise from inhaling the fibres.


Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs and the lining of the lower intestine.

The sole cause of Mesothelioma is asbestos exposure, and by the time it has been diagnosed, it could lead to a fatality.

Lung cancer

Exposure can also lead to lung cancer, which manifests itself in the same way as lung cancers caused by smoking.

Asbestos-related lung cancers are just as prevalent as Mesotheliomas.


After being exposed to asbestos over several years, scarring can appear on the lungs due to a condition known as Asbestosis.

The condition can lead to progressive shortness of breath, and in particularly bad cases, can even be fatal.

Thickening of the pleural lining

Pleural thickening is when the lining of the lung thickens and swells due to asbestos exposure. If the lung lining becomes too thick or swollen, the lung can become squeezed, leading to shortness of breath and discomfort in the chest.

Protecting your team from exposure

As an employer, you have a duty of care to your team to keep them safe whilst at work. If you suspect a building site may have asbestos, you should take the following steps to protect your team from the dangers of exposure.

Identify asbestos as a risk      

Chrysotile asbestos fiber close up.

If you are working on a site that was built before the year 2000, there is the risk that asbestos may be present.

If you are working on non-residential premises, the owner of the building has a duty of care to provide you with any information on asbestos in the building and the condition it is in.

If no information is available, you should have the building surveyed, and any samples you suspect as being asbestos should be analysed.

Perform a risk assessment

A risk assessment will help you decide whether or not it is safe to carry out building or maintenance work on a site that may house asbestos. In your risk assessment, you should identify if asbestos is a risk, and who may be affected.

You should use the results of your risk assessment to decide if the work is safe to carry out, or if you need to have the asbestos removed.

Do you need a licensed contractor?

Working around asbestos can be safe as long as it isn’t damaged or disturbed. If there is damage to the substance, or your work can’t be carried out without disturbing it, you may need to arrange for a licensed contractor to come and remove it before you carry out any work.

You can find licensed asbestos contractors through the HSE, Checkatrade or TrustATrader. If you are interested in acquiring an asbestos licence, visit the HSE website.

Provide PPE

If a member of your team is going to a site where there may be asbestos, but not where they will be disturbing it, it is still prudent to provide them with facial PPE that protects their breathing.

Take a look at the importance of respiratory protection and some of the equipment you can use in this free guide from Premierline.

Did you know?

Asbestos-related diseases kill approximately 5,000 people a year in the UK. This is more than the number of deaths on UK roads.

Contractor insurance with Premierline

At Premierline, we are passionate about helping you protect the business that you have built. This is why we offer a bespoke service to assess your business needs to make sure that you are covered should the worst happen.

Our business advisors will work with some of the UK’s most well-known insurance providers to find a quote that provides the cover that your business needs. Get in touch to speak with one of our trained insurance experts to discuss your contractor insurance requirements.

Man drilling into a tile wall

UKATA urges every tradesperson to undertake asbestos training

UKATA is a leading authority on asbestos training, a not for profit association established in 2008 with a set purpose in mind: to be recognised as the asbestos industry’s most eminent training association.

The primary focus of the association is to ensure that its members offer the highest standards of training to raise much-needed awareness of the dangers of asbestos.

2019 marked twenty years since asbestos was banned in the UK but the deadly building material is still claiming the lives of more than 1,000 tradespeople every year because of a lack of awareness of the dangers.  This figure includes joiners, electricians, and plumbers, making it the single biggest cause of work-related deaths.

With asbestos used widely for decades in both residential and commercial properties prior to its ban, it is estimated to be present in thousands of buildings in the UK and contained in more than 4,000 products including loft insulation, ceiling tiles, cement fireplaces and textured ceilings.  It is not always easy to identify due to it being mixed in with other materials, such as cement.

When undisturbed asbestos rarely poses a threat. However, when work is undertaken that could disturb asbestos-containing materials, there is real risk of releasing asbestos fibres. When inhaled, they can cause deadly asbestos diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma (terminal cancer of the lung linings).

UKATA is urging every tradesperson to ensure they undertake the appropriate level of asbestos training relevant to their role.

Craig Evans, UKATA Chief Operating Officer, explained:

“Too many people are exposing themselves to asbestos unknowingly because of a lack of awareness of the material.

“Any person who may potentially come in to contact with asbestos in their day to day work, must legally receive the correct level of information, instruction and training. Asbestos awareness training is intended to help workers avoid carrying out work that will disturb asbestos containing materials. However, for those workers who are planning work that will intentionally disturb asbestos fibres, then a higher level of asbestos training will be required.

“Since UKATA was established ten years ago, we have provided asbestos awareness training to around two million people, but this is still not enough particularly when you consider how many tradespeople there are in the UK.

“Asbestos awareness training is widely available throughout the UK. The sacrifice of half a day’s work to undertake asbestos awareness training could ultimately save your life and safeguard those around you.”

To find a UKATA approved asbestos training provider near you, visit or for free advice call our team on 01246 824437.