Tradesmen must not be complacent when dealing with asbestos, warns Norwich Union

Article date: 13 March 2008

Norwich Union is warning tradesmen that despite the law to protect them¹ - where responsibility to make the building safe resides with the property owner or tenant - they cannot afford to become complacent about asbestos.

As the HSE steps up its asbestos campaign, "Hidden Killer", Phil Grace, liability risk manager, Norwich Union, warns: "Although property owners have a duty to identify the presence of asbestos and take steps to reduce the risk, the material can still be present and workers must be vigilant. The law cannot cover every eventuality and therefore workers must be aware of the precautions they need to take. 

"The HSE reports that 20 workers die from asbestos related diseases every week, and contrary to many people's beliefs, asbestos can be present in any building built or refurbished before the year 2000.²

"There appears to be a growing sense of complacency regarding the risks associated with asbestos. Studies have shown that while many of the ‘most at risk' workers know of the dangers of residual asbestos that remains in buildings, they do not believe that they would come into contact with it or they believe there's a safe limit."

Grace warns that tradesmen should only work with asbestos if they have had asbestos training and the work is properly planned and the right controls and equipment are in place.

"Being aware is half the battle and good preparation should ensure that employees don't stumble across asbestos.

"Workers must be aware of the warning signs, such as fibrous, flaky materials, and ensure that if they come across these signs, they should stop work until expert advice is obtained. Norwich Union Risk Services (NURS) has a preferred supplier who would be able to help survey a premises."

As part of Norwich Union's Simply Safety campaign, a downloadable guide is available at advising trades on how to approach work where there might be a risk of asbestos present. 

A "Managing Asbestos Risks" course is also available from Norwich Union Risk Services,  ( which provides information to identify and assess asbestos risks and the skills to develop an ongoing management programme.


For further information, please contact:
Alex Anderson 0161 919 8021/07779 162583 or Sam Bramwell 0161 919 8024/07738 196667 at Staniforth or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684225/07800 699670

Notes to editors:

¹ The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006


Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.

It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest financial adviser (FA) providers. FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.

Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

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