Asbestos is a term used for a group of fibrous minerals and is widely used because of its incombustibility, good electrical and heat insulating properties and strength.  The most commonly used types of asbestos are:

  • chrystotile (white asbestos)
  • amosite (brown asbestos)
  • crocidolite (blue asbestos)
Where are you likely to find asbestos materials?
  • roof and exterior walls
  • boiler, vessels and pipework
  • ceilings
  • interior walls/panels
  • floorings
  • domestic appliances

Although asbestos is a hazardous material, it can only pose a risk to health if its fibres become airborne and then inhaled.  Asbestos-containing materials only release fibres into the air when they are disturbed.  Exposure to asbestos fibres can have serious adverse health effects including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma.  the disease can take many years to develop, so the person who breathes in fibres will not be immediately aware of a change in their health.

Organisations in the UK and Ireland are subject to asbestos safety and health regulations to safeguard workers from asbestos exposure.  This means that some work with asbestos requires a licence.  For workers based elsewhere, there may be specific safety and health laws about working with asbestos.  In some countries, such as New Zealand and some EU member states such as Germany, a licence is needed for some types of work with asbestos, for instance asbestos removal and demolition.

Actions to be taken by - Employers
  • complying with their country’s asbestos legislation to ensure that the exposure of workers to asbestos is limited as far as is reasonably practicable and is within any exposure limits.
  • investigating any likely asbestos health hazards before any work is carried out.
  • keeping up-to-date records of the location and condition of asbestos materials and providing this information to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.
  • assessing the likelihood of risk of anyone being exposed to asbestos and take appropriate measures to control the risk.
  • providing the necessary maintained equipment and services for monitoring the working environment.
  • ensuring that all workers are suitably trained and informed of the asbestos hazards associated with the tasks assigned to them and the control methods in place.
  • providing and maintaining personal protective equipment and clothing for workers when asbestos hazards cannot otherwise be prevented or controlled.
  • transporting waste in sealed, labelled containers in accordance with local hazardous waste laws or regulations.
Actions to be taken by - Employees
  • complying with instructions given to them to prevent or control asbestos exposure.
  • notifying management of any change of circumstance in the work process which might give rise to asbestos dust exposure.
  • wearing the personal protective equipment and clothing provided either when other methods for the control of asbestos dust cannot be applied, or when it is necessary to wear it in addition to other methods of control.
  • taking part in available organisation medical surveillance programmes to monitor any adverse health effects from asbestos exposure.

Did You Know?

Asbestos will have claimed the lives of 10 million people globally before it is fully controlled