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Ultimate Guide to Asbestos Safety

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that was widely used in various industries due to its desirable properties. It is composed of thin, microscopic fibres that are durable, heat-resistant and have excellent insulating properties. Asbestos has been used in construction materials, such as insulation, roofing shingles, floor tiles, cement products, and automotive parts.

Types of asbestos:

  • Chrysotile (white asbestos): The most commonly used type of asbestos, often found in roofs, ceilings, walls, and floors.
  • Amosite (brown asbestos): Often used in insulation and fireproofing materials.
  • Crocidolite (blue asbestos): Known for its exceptional heat resistance, often used in insulation and cement products.
  • Anthophyllite, Tremolite, and Actinolite: Less commonly used types of asbestos, but still present in some products.

Health risks?

Despite its advantageous properties, asbestos is highly hazardous to human health when its fibres become airborne and are inhaled or ingested. Prolonged exposure to asbestos fibres can lead to serious health conditions, including asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other respiratory diseases. Due to its known health risks, the use of asbestos has been heavily regulated and restricted in many countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States. However, asbestos-containing materials are still present in many older buildings, posing a risk to workers and occupants if disturbed or damaged. Proper handling, management, and removal of asbestos are crucial to prevent exposure and mitigate health risks.

Asbestos Safety Practices

  1. Training and Awareness:
    Provide asbestos training for employees who may encounter asbestos-containing materials during their work.
  2. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE):
    Use appropriate PPE such as respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and disposable coveralls when working with or near asbestos.
  3. Safe Work Practices:
    Follow safe work practices to minimise the release of asbestos fibres, such as wetting materials before handling and using controlled removal techniques.
  4. Asbestos Waste Management:
    Dispose of asbestos waste in accordance with relevant regulations and guidelines.

What is Asbestos Training?

Asbestos training refers to specialised educational programs designed to provide individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to safely handle asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). These training programs aim to raise awareness about the health risks associated with asbestos exposure and teach learners how to identify, handle, and properly remove asbestos to prevent harm.

Types of asbestos training

There are three main levels of information, instruction, and training. These relate to:

  • Asbestos awareness
  • Non-licensable work with asbestos including NNLW
  • Licensable work with asbestos

Asbestos Awareness

Asbestos Awareness training is legally required for workers and supervisors who may be exposed to asbestos containing materials (ACMs) during their work but is not required to work with or remove asbestos. This training is designed to provide information on how to avoid work that may disturb asbestos. If a worker is planning on carrying out work that will disturb asbestos, further training will be required in addition to asbestos awareness. Successful completion of the course will demonstrate a basic awareness of asbestos and compliance with Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations. 2012.

Asbestos Awareness training is designed for employees whose work could expose them to asbestos. The training is also useful for anyone requiring a better understanding of the basic elements of asbestos and is a good ‘stepping stone’ to more in-depth courses.

Occupations that may require asbestos awareness training include (but are not limited to):

  • Construction workers
  • Demolition workers
  • Roofers
  • Heating engineers
  • Plasterers
  • Carpenters
  • Plumbers
  • Painters and decorators

Non-licensable work, including Notifiable Non-licensed Work (NNLW)

In the UK, non-licensable work with asbestos refers to activities involving lower-risk asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that do not require a license from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to undertake. However, these activities are still subject to strict regulations and controls under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). Non-licensable work encompasses a wide range of tasks that may involve handling or working near asbestos-containing materials.

This training gives delegates the theoretical and practical skills to undertake non-licensed works with asbestos-containing materials. Persons requiring this type of training would include trade operatives undertaking tasks with asbestos-containing materials as defined in HSG210 and in accordance with CAR 2012 Reg 3(2).

Workers who may need this level of information, instruction and training include all types of tradespeople whose work will require them to disturb asbestos-containing materials, such as:

  • Drilling holes in asbestos materials
  • Laying cables in areas containing undamaged asbestos materials
  • Removing asbestos-containing floor tiles
  • Cleaning or repairing asbestos cement sheet roofing or cladding


It’s important to note that while non-licensable work with asbestos does not require a license, it must still be carried out by competent individuals who have received appropriate training and instruction in non-licensed asbestos work and safe work practices. Employers and duty holders are responsible for ensuring that non-licensable work with asbestos is conducted safely and in compliance with regulatory requirements.

Failure to comply with regulations governing non-licensable work with asbestos can result in serious health risks to workers and others in the vicinity, as well as legal consequences for the responsible parties. Therefore, it is essential to follow proper procedures and controls when undertaking non-licensable work with asbestos to minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

Licensable work with Asbestos

Licensable work with asbestos refers to activities involving higher-risk asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that require a license from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to undertake. These activities are governed by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). Licensable work is subject to stricter regulations and controls due to the increased risk of exposure to asbestos fibres.

It’s important to note that licensable work must only be carried out by licensed asbestos removal contractors and operatives who have received appropriate training and certification. These individuals and companies must adhere to strict regulations and guidelines to ensure the safety of workers and the public.

Employers and duty holders are responsible for ensuring that licensable work with asbestos is carried out safely and in compliance with regulatory requirements. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in severe penalties, including fines and imprisonment. Therefore, it is essential to engage competent and licensed professionals when undertaking licensable work with asbestos to mitigate the risks associated with asbestos exposure.

Ouch schedule asbestos open courses regularly throughout the year at both of our venues in Wimborne, Dorset and Stockport. These are suitable for individuals or smaller numbers of people. They can also be useful if you have a large group but need them to undertake the training at different times due to work commitments.

We can also deliver in-house training at your own premises on a convenient date for you. This is most suitable for larger groups or for those looking to have training delivered to a number of people at the same time. It’s also useful for those that are based further away from our training venues as Ouch can come to your premises on a convenient date for you.

Employer Responsibilities

The HSE state:

Every employer must make sure that anyone who is liable to disturb asbestos during their normal work, or who supervises those employees, gets the correct level of information, instruction and training so that they can work safely and competently without risk to themselves or others.

Is asbestos training a legal requirement?

Yes, asbestos training is a legal requirement in the United Kingdom for anyone who may come into contact with asbestos or asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) as part of their work. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 sets out the legal requirements for asbestos training in the UK.

Under these regulations, employers have a duty to provide adequate training to employees who are likely to be exposed to asbestos during their work or who supervise such employees. The level of training required depends on the tasks individuals will be undertaking.

Asbestos awareness training is mandatory for employees whose work could foreseeably disturb asbestos-containing materials. This training ensures that employees understand the risks associated with asbestos, can recognise asbestos-containing materials, and know how to respond appropriately to avoid exposure.

For those involved in non-licensed asbestos work, additional training is required. This includes asbestos training for those involved in asbestos removal, encapsulation, and other related activities. The training must cover the specific techniques, procedures, and safety measures involved in working with asbestos.

It’s important to note that the specific requirements and regulations may evolve over time, so it is advisable to consult the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) or other authoritative sources for the most up-to-date information on asbestos training requirements in the UK.

Why is Asbestos Safety Training Important?

Asbestos training is crucial for several reasons:

Legal Compliance: Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012), employers have a legal obligation to provide adequate training to employees who may be exposed to asbestos as part of their work. Failure to comply with these regulations can result in penalties and legal consequences.

Health and Safety: Asbestos exposure can lead to serious health risks, including asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. Proper training ensures that workers understand the dangers of asbestos exposure and know how to protect themselves and others from harm.

Risk Management: Asbestos training teaches workers how to identify asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), assess the risks associated with them, and implement appropriate control measures to minimise exposure. This helps to prevent accidents, injuries, and costly litigation resulting from asbestos-related incidents.

Safe Handling and Removal: Workers who are properly trained in asbestos awareness, handling, and removal techniques can safely manage asbestos-containing materials without releasing harmful fibres into the air. This reduces the risk of exposure to themselves and others in the vicinity.

Emergency Response: In the event of an asbestos-related emergency, such as accidental damage to asbestos-containing materials or a release of asbestos fibres, trained workers can respond effectively to contain the situation and minimise the risk of exposure to asbestos.

Public Confidence: Demonstrating a commitment to asbestos safety through comprehensive training programs enhances public confidence in organisations and demonstrates responsible management of asbestos risks.

Overall, asbestos training plays a vital role in protecting the health and safety of workers, occupants, and the general public, while also ensuring compliance with legal requirements and minimising liability for employers and property owners.

Awarding Bodies

Ouch are an approved training provider with both IATP and UKATA.

Independent Asbestos Training Providers (IATP) are a not-for-profit organisation and work in co-operation with the HSE. They create a link between asbestos training providers and those that require training. All IATP members are independently audited to prove competence and compliance with asbestos legislation.

The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) are an association dedicated to improving the quality and standards of asbestos training, with the ultimate goal of protecting workers and the public from the risks associated with asbestos exposure. All UKATA members are audited to ensure training providers are delivering high quality asbestos training.

Both awarding bodies provide standards and syllabi, industry updates and promote the best practices within the asbestos industry.

Further Information and Guidance

The HSE provides comprehensive guidance on first aid in the workplace, including regulations, guidance documents, and frequently asked questions.