I live in a house built in 1977: does it contain asbestos? What are the risks for me if it does contain asbestos?

a. Does it contain asbestos?

There is a strong possibility that there is asbestos in any buildings built before 1991. In the event of any work, it is essential that you perform a "pre-work diagnosis" of the property in order to see if there is any asbestos and to avoid any risk of contamination.


b. What are the risks for me if it does contain asbestos?

During normal use of the building (when you live there without performing any work), if the materials are in good condition, there is no risk of exposure. If you suspect that asbestos may be present in materials in poor condition or to avoid any risk, ask for a "normal use diagnosis" (diagnostic en utilisation normale) from an approved company. Work that is carried out without precautions creates dust and exposes the workers and occupants of the premises to asbestos fibres. It is essential that you perform a diagnosis before any work activity and, where appropriate, have the asbestos containing materials removed in the area affected by the works.


Is an asbestos diagnosis mandatory when you intend to carry out work that is not subject to planning permission?

Yes, because it is impossible to exclude the presence of asbestos without a "pre-work diagnosis". It is the only way to identify the danger and avoid exposing people to asbestos fibres (for buildings dating from before 1991).

Can a private individual remove asbestos cement blocks by themselves?

Yes. They can remove asbestos cement blocks under the following conditions:

  • The materials must be in good condition and unmodified.
  • They must comply with the best practices given as an example in the SUVA thematic sheet (ref. 33.031.f). Information about protective equipment, removing the slabs, cleaning and disposal are specified in this document.
I am having solar panels fitted on a barn roof (subject to planning permission). Do I need to fill in the hazardous substances statement (attestation de substance dangereuse) and perform a "pre-work diagnosis"?

Yes, if the building was built before 1991 and the works involve old materials. It is mandatory to fill in the hazardous substances statement (attestation de substance dangereuse) and perform a pre-work diagnosis.

Is an asbestos diagnosis mandatory for a sale in Geneva?

No, in Switzerland the diagnosis is not mandatory for commercial transactions such as a sale or leasing. However, the fact that a diagnosis has been performed before a commercial transaction may be useful during negotiations.

Are there any grants available for diagnosis/asbestos removal?
No. Unlike energy efficiency improvements in homes, these works do not benefit the whole population, but only the inhabitants of the building in question.
Are we well protected if we wear a mask?
Different types of mask offer different levels of protection. For asbestos, you need a high-protection type-P3 mask. A standard dust mask offers no protection. Also, just the fact that you have stubble strongly reduces the seal of any type of mask.
Can you carry out works supposing that asbestos is present?
This does not cause any legal issue, but the excess costs incurred mean that this is rarely worthwhile. It may be considered for very small scale work (making some holes in tiling in a bathroom for example).
Can you submit the hazardous substances statement (attestation substances dangereuses) after submitting the application for planning permission?
No. The hazardous substances statement must be submitted at the same time as the application for planning permission. If the absence of asbestos and PCB is proven without reservations, planning permission without reservations is issued. If asbestos is present, planning permission is granted with a removing plan.
Do you still need to carry out a pre-work diagnosis for works that are not subject to planning permission?
Yes. The pre-works diagnosis is essential, the risks are of course the same regardless of the administrative procedure. The only difference from the administrative procedure is that no hazardous substances statement (attestation substances dangereuses) is necessary.