What Is Asbestos?

by | Sep 25, 2017

Asbestos is a group of naturally occurring minerals which are made up of fine, durable fibres and was used in many buildings for insulation and fireproofing purposes before being banned in 1999.

This means that if you are working in a building built prior to 2000, then it is likely that asbestos will be present.


If you’re working with, or in close proximity to, asbestos for pro-longed periods of time then this exposure can cause serious health issues, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, which can ultimately lead to lung cancer and fatality.

Around 20 tradesmen die every week as a result of working with asbestos so it’s extremely dangerous and should be handled with the appropriate care and precaution to reduce the risk of death.

What does asbestos look like?

It is important that you can identify asbestos visually, but bear in mind that there are many different types and they all do vary in appearance so it isn’t always easy to recognise.

If you are working in a building built before 2000, then you need to be wary of asbestos. There are certain places within a building where you are most likely to find it such as floor tiles, ceiling tiles, roof shingles, insulation (around boilers or pipes) and pipe cement.

Some materials will clearly mark that they contain asbestos, but in other cases you can never be sure and there is no list of visual identifiers that you should go by to confirm whether or not asbestos is present in a building.

Instead, take a sample and get it tested at a laboratory to officially confirm the presence of asbestos before you start any work.

What are the different types of asbestos?

There are six types of asbestos: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite.

  • Chrysotile is the most commonly used and can be found in roofs, walls and floors of many older homes and businesses. It has been found that it takes more exposure to this particular type of asbestos than any other to develop any related diseases.
  • Amosite is great for heat resistance which is why it can be found in many insulation boards of older buildings.
  • Crocidolite is the easiest to inhale because the fibres are so fine; hence, it has been linked to more deaths than any other type of asbestos.
  • Tremolite is flexible and strong so can be spun and woven into cloth.
  • Anthophylite is one of the rarest forms of asbestos and is not used commercially.
  • Actinolite has a harsh texture and was used in a lot of concrete materials in construction.

How can you be safe around asbestos?

Asbestos is extremely dangerous and potentially fatal, so it is important that you are aware of the correct procedures and practices when working with or around the material.

The fibres from asbestos are released into the air and can easily be inhaled by anyone nearby causing adverse affects on the lungs. Therefore, the first step you can take to reduce your chances of contracting an illness is to wear the appropriate PPE which, in this case, would start with a well-fitted respirator to protect you from inhaling the fibres.

Furthermore, the best way to stay safe in any situation is to be informed and aware, and in doing so, online training is a great way of improving your knowledge and showcasing to the HSE and clients that you are fully qualified, and even certified, in carrying out tasks safely.

Other safety tips include cleaning up any dust as you work, making sure you wash before any breaks or before going home, avoid eating or drinking in close proximity to the area containing asbestos and never reusing disposable clothing or PPE (it’s called disposable for a reason).

But these are all things that would be covered in more detail during an extensive training course; something that we provide here at Safety Services Direct.
We offer three types of Online Asbestos Awareness Training which are all recognised by major clients and contractors.

The UKATA course is our most popular and can ensure that you are certified to work with asbestos in just 2 hours, or for something a little cheaper you can try our RoSPA Asbestos Awareness Training.
We even provide IATP approved asbestos awareness courses for a slightly more convenient and quicker alternative.

With the appropriate online training in place, you can sleep easy knowing that you and your employees are competent in handling asbestos and carrying out asbestos related activities.

For more information you can call us on 01237 477 931 or head back to main website


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