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Written on 26th July 2016 by Laura Magson

Asbestos as a material has been mined and used by people since before Christ, the dangers related to the material however have only been widely accepted for the last 50 – 60 years.

As our understanding of asbestos related injuries has increased so have the various health and safety requirements imposed upon employers to protect workers from inhaling dangerous levels of the deadly fibre.

A key health and safety document designed to protect employees has been interpreted incorrectly by many employers and this misinterpretation has sadly lead to thousands of asbestos workers going on to suffers asbestos related diseases such as diffuse pleural thickening, asbestosis, mesothelioma and asbestos related lung cancer.

Technical Data Notice 13 (TDN13)

The misinterpreted health and safety document in question is Technical Data Notice 13 (TDN13) which was titled, “Standards for asbestos dust concentration for use with the Asbestos Regulations 1969”. This document was produced by the Factory Inspectorate.

TDN13 was intended to provide a working guideline for employers as to guideline threshold levels of asbestos exposure which the Factory Inspectorate would determine to be, “liable to cause danger to health” for the purposes of enforcement under the provisions of the 1969 Asbestos Regulations.

Whilst TDN13 was published with good intentions, employers unfortunately saw the minimum threshold levels as being an “up to” acceptable level of asbestos exposure. This was not the case, there is no known safe level of asbestos exposure.

TDN13 advised that where the average concentration of asbestos dust over any 10 minute sampling period was less than 2 fibre per millilitre of air, the Factory Inspectorate would not seek to enforce the 1969 Asbestos Regulations. Employers were already aware however from earlier expert reports concerning exposure to asbestos fibres that even low level exposure could cause malignant cancerous diseases.

Unfortunately now thousands of workers have gone on to suffer asbestos related diseases and employers and their insurers seek to rely upon the guidance in TDN13 as a shield to protect themselves from liability. TDN13 was never designed to be used in such a way.


In December 1976 the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) published guidance note EH10. This document largely mirrored the Factory Inspectorates TDN13 but helpfully added that, "exposure to all forms of asbestos dust should be reduced to the minimum that is reasonably practicable”.

Lengthy legal arguments have been held as to what constitutes “reasonably practicable” reductions to asbestos dust exposure, but sadly once again employers and their insurers still seek to rely upon TDN13 and EH10 as a shield.

Our view

In our view there is no safe level of asbestos exposure, a view now confirmed by medical science.

If you encounter asbestos in the home or the workplace you should stop working immediately and approach a specialist asbestos contractor to attend the site. If the specialist contractor confirms a finding of asbestos materials he can advise as the safest way to seal or remove the asbestos for you removing any danger of you being exposed to harmful asbestos dust and fibres.