Asbestos Safety

What is it?

Asbestos was used in new and the refurbishing of buildings before 2000. Two types brown (amosite)and blue (crocidolite) were made illegal in 1985, and in 1999 all manufacture of asbestos was banned. It is an increasing issue in Ni, Ireland and the UK. More and more buildings are being replaced or updated, and some contain asbestos.

What is the problem?

Large amounts of asbestos were used in new and refurbished buildings before 2000. Blue (crocidolite) and brown (amosite) asbestos were banned by law in 1985. Manufacture and supply of all asbestos was banned by the end of 1999. Existing asbestos articles can continue in use until they reach the end of their service life.

Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) are those in the construction, maintenance, refurbishment and other related trades. When ACMs are damaged or disturbed they release dangerous fibres which, if breathed in, can cause serious diseases. Once in the air, fibres can be breathed in and cause lung diseases including:

  • Mesothelioma – a cancer of the linings to the lungs and stomach;
  • Lung cancer;
  • Other serious diseases such as asbestosis – a scarring of lung tissue.

Some fibres are much smaller than sand particles, and you won’t notice breathing them in, they will sit in your lungs for 10-60 years before any diseases develop. Unfortunately, they are incurable, so protect yourself to prevent this happening.

Always remember if you don’t know, don’t go

You should check with non-domestic buildings if they have an asbestos plan or register. Most commercial or industrial buildings should have this.  Ask to see it, if they don’t have one or it’s not clear, don’t start work, how will you know where asbestos materials are?

Get a professional to check the area and take samples, if it delays the job, so what. Health is what matters!

In domestic properties, be careful around insulating board pre- dating year 2000, asbestos cement roofing, sprayed asbestos (limpet) and damaged textured coating.

Once you know where asbestos could be, make sure the area is suitably sealed off from the public, let your customer or client know about the risks of entering. Make sure you have your PPE on and reduce the likelihood of any fibres escaping.

Do you need a licence?

High risk work must be carried out by a licensed contractor, this can include:

Any work on types of asbestos insulation where the risk that the fibre release will be high. ( if the material is damaged, or the work is not short duration work)

Short duration in this sense means;

‘Short duration’ according to the HSE means; “Any one person doing this type of work for less than one hour – or more than one person doing the work for no more than two hours – in any seven consecutive days. The total time spent by all workers must not exceed two-person hours. This includes time spent setting up, building enclosures, cleaning and clearing up.”

Non-licensed work includes most work on asbestos-containing textured coatings, also known as Artex, and asbestos cement.

Some non-licensed work, where the risk of fibre release is greater, is subject to three requirements:

notification of work;

  • marking work areas with warning notices;
  • medical examinations and record keeping.

This work is known as notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW). How do you know if your work is NNLW? Decide what type of work you are doing

Removal –Refurbishment or redesign project.

Maintenance – Drilling holes to attach fittings or pass cables through, painting, cleaning etc.

Encapsulation – Work to enclose or seal asbestos materials in good condition.

Common areas of asbestos are in the images below.

Green- Normally non-licensed

Yellow- If short duration non-licensed – otherwise licensed

Red- Licenced.

Information extracted from the HSE and HSE NI websites.  They have a further range of in depth information about asbestos.


Asbestos Factory/Commercial Locations

Asbestos Factory Location

Domestic Asbestos Locations

Domestic Asbestos Location

Asbestos Flow Chart

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