How to keep yourself safe at home

If you are considering carrying out DIY in your home and you suspect there might be asbestos present please read the below information before commencing any work.  

This information has been produced in partnership with Asbestos Removal Contractors Association.

Is my house likely to have asbestos? 

Asbestos was commonly used in building materials that were used in homes from the 1950s – 1990s. It is no longer used as it has been shown to be unsafe and is now regulated by law.  The use of any type of asbestos within the UK was banned in 1999.  Therefore, it is possible that asbestos containing materials may be found in any residential premises built or refurbished before the year 2000.  However, it should be remembered that whilst asbestos should always be treated with care, it is not usually a problem unless it is disturbed or damaged.

Where are the most likely places to find it? 

Asbestos has many properties which make it particularly suitable for inclusion in building materials and other household applications.  Its insulating properties make it ideal for lagging pipes and insulating electrical installations.  Its inclusion in asbestos insulating board (AIB) provides the boards fire resistant property.  Its addition to various products provides strength and durability, such as asbestos cement (guttering downpipes, corrugated roofing sheets) and vinyl floor tiles.  A detailed list of typical locations where asbestos materials can be found in residential properties can be found on the Health and Safety Executive’s website at: https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/building.htm 

Detailed information on the types of asbestos materials that may be found in homes are described below can be found in ARCA’s Guidance on Asbestos in the Home’

What does it look like? 

It can be difficult to identify asbestos with the naked eye, as it is often mixed with other materials. The HSE asbestos image gallery shows a number of common materials that contain asbestos. https://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/gallery.htm 

The only way to positively identify a material as containing asbestos is to have a sample analysed by a laboratory accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to ISO 17025 for carrying out asbestos bulk sample identification. Many ATaC members are UKAS accredited for this activity. 

If I find asbestos what should I do? 

If asbestos is found in the home, look for signs of damage or dust being released by the material. If any asbestos found is in good condition and not worn or damaged, it can be left in place. Added protection can be given by painting with emulsion paint but remember to use an alkali resistant primer or coating for asbestos cement products. Householders should avoid any work on asbestos materials, or materials suspected to contain asbestos, that would raise dust: for example, sanding or drilling should always be avoided. If the asbestos is damaged or giving off dust it should be carefully removed. Large amounts of asbestos (or any work on sprayed asbestos, lagging or insulation board) should only be removed by a specialist contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

DIY asbestos removal is not encouraged, but if a householder is tempted to disturb / remove small amounts, they should always refer to the available guidance, to ensure that it is done safely, and the waste is disposed of correctly. Guidance on small scale unlicensed asbestos removal work can be found on the HSE’s website here.

Does it always have to be removed? 

If the asbestos fibres are still firmly bound within the material and the material is undamaged and is likely to remain undamaged, i.e., there are no foreseeable activities or occurrences which may lead to the material becoming damaged, it may be safer to leave the material undisturbed. If you remove it, asbestos fibres may be released. 

I am an experienced DIY-er, can I remove it myself?  

DIY asbestos removal is not encouraged, but if a householder is tempted to disturb / remove small amounts, they should always refer to the available guidance, to ensure that it is done safely, and the waste is disposed of correctly. Guidance on small scale unlicensed asbestos removal work can be found on the HSE’s website here.

Large amounts of asbestos (or any work on sprayed asbestos, lagging or insulation board) should only be removed by a specialist contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). 

Here is a list of specialist contractors licensed by the Health and Safety Executive.

How can I protect myself if I’m not sure if there is asbestos? 

You cannot tell if a material contains asbestos just by looking at it. Often it is not possible to see the fibres in an asbestos containing material with the naked eye. The only way to confirm that the material contains asbestos is by having a sample tested by a specialist laboratory accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to ISO 17025 for carrying out asbestos bulk sample identification. Many ATaC members are UKAS accredited for this activity. A list of specialist laboratories that can carry out this service can be found here.

Who can I contact for more information? 

For details of asbestos in the home see the GOV.UK website or contact your local council who should be able to advise you. 

Links:

The Asbestos Removal Contractors Association, ARCA, represents specialist licensed asbestos removal contractors - Find a Contractor 

The Asbestos Testing and Consultancy Association, ATaC, represents specialists in asbestos surveying and testing - Find an ATaC Member