Asbestos FAQs

Frequently asked questions about asbestos safety in the workplace.

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in construction until it was banned in the late 1990s. Buildings constructed before the year 2000 may still have asbestos in them, but asbestos is only dangerous if it is poorly managed and subsequently disturbed.

If Asbestos fibres are breathed in they can get stuck in your lungs, causing chronic illness. The health effects caused by asbestos are Mesothelioma, Asbestosis, pleural disease and asbestos-related lung cancer.

Where can asbestos be found?

Asbestos was widely used in building materials due to its resistance to heat, fire and sound. It could be found in ceilings and flooring tiles, cement, roofing, and insulation boards.

Asbestos was also used in other products including vehicle parts, boilers, gaskets, electrical wires and textiles.

What are the types of Asbestos?

The three main types of asbestos include:

  • Chrysotile (white) – the most common form. Found in roofs, ceilings, walls, brake linings, insulations for pipes, and boiler seals.
  • Amosite (brown) – used in cement sheets and pipe insulation.
  • Crocidolite (blue) – was used to insulate steam engines and also in some spray-on coatings.

When was asbestos banned in the UK?

Blue and brown asbestos was banned in 1985, and white asbestos was banned in 1999.

Is it illegal to sell asbestos?

Yes – it is illegal to sell (or give away free of charge) any items containing asbestos in the UK.

What does asbestos look like?

Asbestos is not easy to recognise as it comes in many forms. Here are examples from the HSE.

If you suspect you have found asbestos then it is important to get a professional to test it.

Is there asbestos in my house?

If your house was built before 1999 it is likely to have asbestos in it. However, asbestos is only harmful if it is broken or disturbed.

Can I remove asbestos myself?

It is highly recommended that you do not dispose of asbestos unless you have the right qualifications to remove asbestos safely.

What do I do if I think I’ve come across asbestos?

Stop work, inform your employer immediately, and a risk assessment must be carried out. This will then help your employer to decide whether the work needs a specialist licensed contractor or remedial actions taken.

If I am working with asbestos should I wear PPE?

You shouldn’t be working with asbestos containing materials unless you are competent and been authorised by your employer who will have assessed the need to be licensed and put systems in place to prevent exposure and harm.

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) at Work Regulations 1992 states ‘every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work.’

When do I need an asbestos license?

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 requires an employer to have a license to be able to begin licensable work with asbestos.

I think I have been exposed to asbestos - what do I do?

If you think you have been exposed to asbestos then tell your employer who will have arrangements in place that might include visiting your GP. However, most people do not develop a serious condition as a result of a single exposure to asbestos.