Asbestos Regulations 1969

It’s the most notorious building material of all. Asbestos first became popular in the 1880s - hailed as a wonder substance by manufacturers and engineers. Yet it didn’t take long for experts to notice the link between asbestos and serious lung problems. The tragedy is that, for many years, regulations lagged behind the medical understanding of the risk posed by asbestos.

On this page we will cover:

  • A brief history of asbestos regulations;
  • The Asbestos Regulations 1969 and how they shaped your legal rights today;
  • What you are entitled to if you have an asbestos-related lung condition.

If you’re after a more in depth history then you can read about the history of asbestos from the beginning of the 20th Century.

Asbestos Regulations 1969: An introduction

You can’t understate the importance of the Asbestos Regulations 1969. It was the first piece of legislation that took into account the many different types of workers - across industries - who could be affected by asbestos dust. Previous regulation had focused only on factory workers.

The regulations came into force in May 1970 and gave employers a stringent set of guidelines about how employees should be protected from asbestos fibres. These regulations also defined the first acceptable quantitative limits for exposure to asbestos dust.

Research, reports and regulations before 1969

The 1969 legislation was a breakthrough. But it wasn’t the start of asbestos regulation.

As early as 1898, a report by the Chief Inspecting Officer for Factories noted that the level of dust in factories was likely bad for staff health. These suspicions were confirmed in 1907 during the post mortem of an employee who had been working with asbestos for 14 years. The report cited inhalation of asbestos dust as the cause of lung fibrosis - known today as asbestosis. 

Then in 1930 the government commissioned a study into the effects of asbestos dust on lungs. It was a turning point in the medical understanding of asbestos use - and the report that followed urged the government to implement legislation to protect employees. This legislation followed in 1932 and sought to minimise exposure to asbestos dust through exhaust ventilation, protective clothing (such as overalls and masks) and regular cleaning of machinery and surfaces.

Unfortunately the regulations were poorly policed. Even worse, the regulation focused on factory workers and missed the fact that asbestos was being used on a daily basis in multiple industries outside the factory walls. This oversight wasn’t fully rectified in law until the Asbestos Regulations 1969.

What has changed since 1969?

Since the Asbestos Regulations 1969, the legislation has been continually tightened and refined - from bans on the importation of brown and blue asbestos in 1985, right up to the complex legislation that governs asbestos use today: the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

What does asbestos legislation mean for you?

The Asbestos Regulations 1969 laid out the measures employers should take to protect their staff from the risks of asbestos. But many employers either turned a blind eye or missed the legislation completely. It means that countless employees were working with asbestos, without the proper precautionary measures to help keep them safe.

If you have developed an asbestos-related medical condition, such as lung cancer, mesothelioma, pleural plaques or asbestosis, you may be entitled to compensation from your previous employer(s).