How to Test for Asbestos

Asbestos is a dangerous substance that is still affecting thousands of people in the UK. According to Cancer Research UK, there were 2,496 deaths caused by Mesothelioma in the UK in 2016. Cancers such as this are a consequence of inhaling hazardous asbestos fibres that stick to the lining of the lungs, contributing towards cell mutation. Despite asbestos being banned in 1999, there are still many buildings that contain the harmful substance. For this reason, it is vital that you test for asbestos in a residence or building that is over 15 years old.

Identifying asbestos materials and testing them is not an easy job, and even those who have taken an online asbestos awareness training course before need a refresher course at regular intervals. SSD Online Asbestos has compiled this handy guide on how to safely test for asbestos on your work premises.

Where Should you Test for Asbestos?

  • Any cement products that contain asbestos materials (usually found in shed or garage roofs and walls, drain pipes, soffits and partitions).
  • Textured coatings on walls and ceilings.
  • Floor tiles, textiles and composites.
  • Ceilings, walls and beams/columns that have been given sprayed coatings.
  • Asbestos insulating board – these can be found in: partition walls, fireproofing panels in fire doors, lift shaft linings, ceiling tiles, soffits, panels below windows.
  • Lagging found in or on heating systems.
  • Loose asbestos in ceiling or floor cavity.
  • Water cisterns and pipes.
  • Guttering.

Any building developed pre-2000 is unlikely to contain asbestos. However, anyone who is responsible for the uptake, maintenance and repair of a building should make themselves asbestos aware and being vigilant of its presence.

Any old electrical equipment is manufactured before 2000 is likely to contain asbestos and must be labelled correctly. If possible, try to ask the equipment manufacturer or service engineer for more information on the type of asbestos used.


How to Prepare for Asbestos Testing

When preparing to test a site for asbestos, it is vital that you have as much information on the building as possible. This will determine whether asbestos is existent within the building.

  • Obtain any records of previous asbestos work.
  • Make dialogue with the previous owners or tenants of the building.
  • If you have a facilities management company, speak to them.
  • Check all equipment with supplies and repairers.
  • Speak to the building designer, builder or architect.

There will be cases when you are unsure of where the asbestos is on your premises. If you are, then an asbestos management survey is needed. An asbestos management survey makes sure that no person will be harmed by the activities taking place within the building. This report will give you details of the types of asbestos present, the location of asbestos, extent of the fibres, condition and any treatment to the surface.

With this report in place, you can make the choice between hiring an asbestos trained contractor or a Health and Safety Executive (HSE) licensed contractor.


How to Test for Asbestos

When testing for asbestos, you should never break a piece off when sending for sampling. If the piece has fallen off naturally, then it can be sent away. If there isn’t a risk of spreading the debris or being exposed to the dust, you can carry this off yourself without the need for an asbestos trained contractor.

If there is a risk of exposure, you must call in a UKAS accredited laboratory to come in and collect the asbestos samples. UKAS will have the specialist equipment required to stop them from being exposed to any dangers.

Having made sure there are no safety risks, this is how you test for asbestos:

  1. Dampen your asbestos sample.
  2. Place your asbestos sample within a self-sealing polythene bag.
  3. Put the bag within another self-sealing bag.
  4. Label exactly what the asbestos sample is.
  5. Make arrangements with an asbestos testing laboratory.

Once you receive the results from the lab, there are a number of actions that need to take place afterwards. If the asbestos containing materials (ACMs) can be left it place, it is the duty of staff to make sure that:

  • All information on the location and condition of the asbestos is filed and kept up to date.
  • All staff on site that need to know about the asbestos and its locations must be informed. E.g. Maintenance workers and contractors.
  • ACMs need to be clearly labelled with a warning sign. A warning system could be put up in place instead.
  • Before anyone starts their work on site, those who will work around materials containing asbestos must be informed. When asking for a quote for a job, you must agree any precautions to prevent any exposure.

Make sure you seek advice before removing any asbestos and follow all basic rules when carrying out asbestos cement removal. Always hire a licensed contractor when removing asbestos lagging, spray coating or areas or large areas of insulation board.


Where can I take Asbestos Awareness Training Online?

SSD Online Asbestos specialists offer a number of asbestos awareness training courses. We offer IATP approved, RoSPA approved and UKATA approved asbestos awareness courses online. These online awareness courses take two hours to complete, which will give you all of the asbestos training you need. They also include a final test to fully challenge your asbestos awareness.

In previous blogs, we have covered exactly which asbestos training course you should take if you’re a carpenter, construction worker or any type of tradesperson. Depending on your asbestos awareness needs, you can find the right course for you. Single and bulk packages are available at competitive prices for all trades.

If your asbestos awareness license has expired or is about to expire, get in touch today to find out how you can book your next online asbestos awareness course.