What is the Asbestos Workers Survey?
The Asbestos Workers Survey is a health
surveillance study which was established by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in 1971.
The main aim of the Asbestos Workers Survey is to monitor the
long-term health of the survey participants in order to evaluate
the effectiveness of progressively restrictive regulations to
control the risks associated with exposure to asbestos. The
findings from the survey form part of the evidence used to inform
How do asbestos workers become part of the survey?
The survey began by inviting men and women who worked at
premises covered by the 1969 Asbestos Regulations to attend a
medical examination. During this medical, they were also invited to
take part in the Asbestos Workers Survey. If they agreed to
participate they completed the survey questionnaire which was sent
to HSE for processing.
The 1983 Asbestos Licensing Regulations required those who worked
with asbestos insulation or asbestos coating to be licensed, and
the 1987 Control of Asbestos Regulations extended the requirement
for licensing to all workers exposed to asbestos above a specified
action level, regardless of the type of work they did. These
regulations introduced statutory medical examinations for all
licensed workers. When they attended these medicals, the licensed
workers were also invited to enrol in the Asbestos Workers
Men and women are still being enrolled into the survey to this
day, although now they are being enrolled under the 2012
Control of Asbestos Regulations which superseded all
previous regulations. So far, more than 100,000 asbestos workers
have agreed to take part in the survey.
The information from the medical examination is kept
confidentially by the examining doctor; only the information on the
survey questionnaire completed by each participant is sent to HSL
for processing on behalf of HSE.
A copy of the current version of the survey questionnaire and
accompanying documents, including details of the survey, is
(PDF, 239 kB).
How do we collect information about the survey participants'
When a licensed asbestos worker agrees to take part in the
Asbestos Workers Survey, they are asked to complete the survey
questionnaire. This includes questions about current and past work
with asbestos, and about smoking history.
Exposure to asbestos can increase the risk of developing
asbestosis, mesothelioma and lung cancer, as well as other benign
pleural disease. The simplest way to obtain information on these
important health outcomes without creating a burden for
participants is to apply to NHS Digital (England and Wales) or National
Records of Scotland (NRS).
Survey participants are 'flagged' with NHS Digital or NRS so that
they can notify the survey team of any cancers or death
registrations among the survey participants. Everyone who agreed to
take part in the survey has been 'flagged' in this way with these
Personal information provided by the survey participants is used
to link the survey data with the NHS central databases. The
personal information used to create the link comprises: study ID,
name, address, sex, date of birth and NHS number (if available).
NHS Digital provides the survey team with cancer data on behalf of
Public Health England, and mortality data on behalf of the Office
for National Statistics. NHS Digital and NRS send the survey team
information on the date of the event and the cancer type or cause
of death. They also inform the survey team if a survey participant
has emigrated. In this way, the survey team can follow up the long
term health status of survey participants.
How do we use the survey participants' data?
The information collected through the survey questionnaires and
from the NHS central databases is only used for medical research
purposes, and is treated as strictly confidential. The data are
used to compare ill-health and mortality among the asbestos workers
with the general population, and to examine differences between
groups of workers within the survey population.
The analyses focus on trends over time and differences between
groups of workers, to answer questions such as Is the risk of
developing mesothelioma among licensed asbestos workers reducing
over time? and Is the risk of developing lung cancer for
asbestos workers who smoke the same as the risk for those who do
The findings are reported in such a way that no individual is
identifiable. The Research
Reports describing the findings from the study are freely
available on HSE's website.
What if a participant changes their mind?
If someone agrees to take part in the survey, they can ask to
withdraw from the survey at any point in the future using the
contact information given at the foot of this page. However, the
survey team will keep the information collected up to the time they
withdraw from the survey. This is because the information will
already be part of earlier analyses and published statistics. These
reports do not contain any identifiable data and it is not possible
to remove individual data from them.
How long will the survey last?
The Asbestos Workers Survey is a long-term survey and currently
HSE has not set an end date for it. The data collected will be
stored securely for 15 years after the end of the survey. Retaining
the data for this period ensures that any findings are traceable
for a reasonable time after publication.
How is the survey funded?
The Asbestos Workers Survey is funded by the Health and Safety
If you have any questions at all about the research, please
contact the survey team:
Asbestos Workers Survey
Health and Safety Executive
Or via the website Contact Form.