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Builders Beware – The 7 Places You Find Asbestos
Posted by David Cant on September 22, 2014

Builders Beware – The 7 Places You Find Asbestos

You don’t want to be one of the 86 tradesmen and workers who die every single week from asbestos in the UK.  That’s not 86 per year, it’s 86 every week.

The reason this figure is so high is of course because asbestos lurks everywhere in buildings put up before 1999.  For an overall guide to asbestos, see our detailed guide here;

Workers!  Asbestos is the UK’s No.1 workplace killer – are You at risk?

In this post, I’ll give you a crystal clear picture of where the danger points are in any house.  All images are courtesy of the HSE.

1. Loose fill asbestos

Loose Asbestos MaterialsThis is by far the most dangerous form of asbestos, because it’s 100% asbestos, and is loose filling in flooring cavities, in walls and lofts.  It looks lose and fluffy, and you Mustn’t touch it or work on it for any reason without an HSE-licensed contractor.

2. Sprayed Coatings

Asbestos Lagging and InsulationThis is also one of the really dangerous asbestos materials, because it’s 85% asbestos and breaks up really easily – never do any work on it unless you’re an HSE licensed contractor there.

You find it most commonly on the underside of roofs, and sometimes the sides of buildings. Unless it’s been painted, it’s grey and has a rough surface.

3. Lagging and insulation

Asbestos CementFound around heating systems, as colorifiers, pipework and on or in round boilers – this is also an extremely dangerous form of asbestos, because when disturbed it is so easily airborne, to be breathed in.  It’s a fibrous material which flakes easily, and is usually painted so there’s no particular colour to give it away.  Don’t touch without your trusty HSE-accredited contactor!

4. Asbestos Cement

Asbestos Cement MaterialYou can tell asbestos cement with a water absorption test, or by sight for most experienced surveyors.  It’s basically ordinary cement mixed with asbestos – up to 30%.  It’s less dangerous than other asbestos forms and you don’t need a license to work on it.  But be very careful anyway!

5. Asbestos Insulating Board

Asbestos Insulation BoardThis used to be incredibly common for fireproofing, ceiling tiles, panels under window, partition walls, soffits and lift shaft linings.  It’s relatively safe to move these panels and do very minor work, but wear protective equipment and don’t break it up!

6. Textured coatings

Asbestos Textured CoatingThese contain asbestos and were used to protect decorative finishes on ceilings and walls.  Among the less harmful forms of asbestos, but still dangerous.  Always be careful.

7. Floor tiles, composites and textiles

Asbestos Floor TilesYou’ll find asbestos hidden away in lots of little places.  Like the floor tiles under carpets.  Or in fuse boxes, or if you have an old fire blanket, it may be made using asbestos.  The asbestos composites used to be used in toilet seats, bath panels and window sills.

They’re hard to identify by looking alone, you can look up the trade name online and see if it’s made with asbestos.  It’s not the most dangerous form, but as always, it’s still dangerous, so handle with care!

You can find out more about this nasty customer at the HSE website.  And Always check with HSE guidelines and an HSE licensed surveyor before working with asbestos.

Remember those 86 a week – it’s too big a risk to take!

Got any questions about asbestos?

Ask away, we love to chat!


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner with a brain you can pick. Fluent in practical advice. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the Director of life at Veritas Consulting.

You can find him on – Twitter and Facebook also Linkedin

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