Risks with chemical and biological substances

Many different dangerous substances occur in construction. The dangerous substances can occur during different construction phases, such as during earthworks, demolition or building.

Some common dangerous substances are:

  • asbestos
  • quartz (dust)
  • thermosetting plastics.

In general, many building materials such as paint, joint sealant, insulation, wet room slabs, concrete products etcetera, contain certain dangerous substances, which requires that different types of protective equipment is used. It is therefore important to read the product information sheet before using a new product.

Fundamental during risk assessment of work with dangerous substances is to work in three steps:

  1. Find out which chemical risk sources there are, their dangerous characteristics, and what regulations apply for using the substances.
  2. Identify dangerous situations.
  3. Decide which measures are necessary in order to reduce the risks.

Occasions when an investigation and risk assessment should be done:

  1.  When a new or previously unassessed work should be done.
  2. If the prerequisites changes, for example new information about risks, new working methods or new technical equipment.
  3. Before a temporary work is started.
  4. Every time work will be started in a cistern, well, silo, pipe, deep pit/excavation or similar closed space.

In some work, for example demolition, there can be risk sources that you have not been able to know about in advance. In these cases, one must do the risk assessment for the types of chemical risk sources that are possible, and prepare measures for them.

Work with dangerous substances requires knowledge and that the employees receive special training. Sometimes the employees must undergo special medical checks. Work with asbestos, quartz and thermosetting plastic are examples of chemical substances in the construction sector that have special requirements. Read more here:

Medical check-ups and health assessments

Chemical risks and airborne particles

Asbestos work requires, in addition, both a special permission and documentation, which must be approved by us at the Swedish Work Environment Authority. Every work with asbestos during demolition must, in addition, be reported beforehand to us.

Work with dangerous substances during mobile work places specific demands on the use of special personal protective equipment. It also demands planning so that other employees are not exposed to the dangerous substance.

To prevent employees from being exposed to dangerous substances, there is a demand for an inventory of substances that are harmful to health, before the construction work is started. The responsibility for carrying out the inventory is with the client, the designers and the employer. The building work environment coordinator for the design and planning phase and the coordinator for the construction phase should also check that this is done.

Asbestos, thermosetting plastic, and quartz are common dangerous substances in construction

Asbestos occurred in buildings and structures until about 1976, and was completely banned in 1982. It is a mineral and was used for insulation, paint, fixatives, joints and materials for walls, ceilings and floors. It was used because it was fire resistant, heat-insulating, noise insulating and generally had good mechanical durability. The risks arise during demolition and other processing. Asbestos products cause dangerous dust that can cause pulmonary illnesses and cancer.


Thermosetting plastics are found in some joint foam, in fire seals, special paint for, for example, floors and steel (epoxy), and insulation on district heating pipes. Thermosetting plastics can cause allergies and other oversensitivity.

Quartz (rock dust) occurs in stone and concrete work since it is a mineral that is present in great amounts in our most common rocks, granite and gneiss. This means that the risk exist during many different types of work such as penetrating and chopping in concrete, civil engineering work with earth and stone, drilling in rock and during demolition. Quartz dust can cause pulmonary illnesses and probably also cancer.

Chemical Hazards in the Working Environment (AFS 2011:19Eng), provisions

Omslagsbild: AFS
Amended until 8 May 2018
Chemical Hazards in the Working Environment (AFS 2011:19Eng), provisions

Last updated 2024-01-04