Asbestos and the risk to office workers

  • Posted

Asbestos-related diseases are usually thought of as something that happens to people who have worked in traditional ‘heavy’ industries, like ship building, railways, manufacturing, engineering, and construction.

However, Novum Law’s specialist asbestos legal experts are sometimes asked to help clients who have worked in so-called ‘lighter industries’ such as IT and admin and have spent their working lives in offices buildings.

Earlier this year, the BBC reported on the tragic case of Jason Williams, who worked in the IT industry for 20 years, and sadly died of mesothelioma after being exposed to asbestos in his very first job after university.

Jason Williams had begun his career in IT working at the steelworks in Port Talbot and it is believed that he was exposed to asbestos while running cables and fitting computers.

It wasn’t until two decades later, at the age of just 45, that he realised he had ever been in danger. Tragically, he died just six months later.

Asbestos disease: the facts

Even though the importation, supply and use of all asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1999, asbestos can still be found in any building built before that time. This means that thousands of buildings including office blocks, schools, hospitals, council buildings and factories all contain asbestos.

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), exposure to asbestos causes around 5,000 deaths every year. It can cause serious illnesses, including mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening.

Mesothelioma, which mainly affects the lining of the lungs, affects more than 2,500 people in the UK every year. It typically takes between 15 and 40 years to develop and sadly, there is currently no cure.

Asbestos in office buildings

Alan Jolliffe, a specialist in asbestos disease claims answers your questions about asbestos.

How do I know if my work building has asbestos?

Asbestos wasn’t banned until 1999, so any building constructed before 2000 may have asbestos. A professional survey is usually required to know for sure if your building has asbestos.

Remember that asbestos is only a threat if it is disturbed, so it is unlikely to be an issue unless renovation is taking place.

Who can I talk to at work if I’m concerned?

Find out who the duty holder is for the building you work in. This is the person who is legally responsible for the maintenance of the building. They must manage the presence of asbestos and provide information to anyone who is likely to disturb it.

Where does asbestos hide in offices?

Asbestos was commonly used for insulating and fire protection. In offices, it is most often found in areas like:

  • Ceiling and floor tiles
  • Roofing and wall cladding
  • Insulation pipes, boilers, water tanks and rainwater pipes
  • Ducts, partitions, and insulation boards
  • Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls, beams, and column

This diagram on the HSE website shows the common places where asbestos is present inside buildings.

What type of workers are most at risk of asbestos exposure?

Workers involved in trades should be especially vigilant, such as carpenters, plumbers, plasterers, and electricians.

Other workers involved in refurbishment and maintenance could be at risk, for example, alarm installers, shop fitters, architects and building surveyors.

While it is less common, office workers can be exposed to asbestos in the workplace if it is present in the working environment and gets disturbed. Civil servants, sales and marketing managers, IT workers, accountants and retail assistants can all be affected.

What should I do if I think I’ve been exposed to asbestos?

Remember that, providing the asbestos is in good condition and is somewhere where it can’t be easily damaged, it should not be a risk.

If you are still concerned that you have been exposed, talk to your GP, and ask them to make a note on your medical record. Provide as much information as you can, including the date, duration, type of asbestos and level of exposure.

If you or a family member has been diagnosed with an asbestos-related disease, Novum Law’s team of specialist asbestos disease legal experts can help on a No Win, No Fee basis. To find out more information, contact us on Freephone: 0800 884 0777, email: or complete our online enquiry form.

Online Now
Hi! A real person is available 24/7 at no obligation.
Live Chat is secure free and easy. Start whenever you are ready.
To use this Chat window, first you need to accept our Cookie Policy; we use analytics and third-party cookies to give you the best possible experience on our website.
Are you happy to give your consent?
Live Chat Start Now

To use this Chat, first you need to accept our Cookie Policy; we use analytics and third-party cookies to give you the best possible experience on our website.
Are you happy to give your consent?

Chat invite