Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

How to identify Asbestos

Asbestos was commonly used in construction and building maintenance from the 1940s to the 1990s. Any building built or refurbished before 2000 could contain asbestos. See the page in this guideline: where is asbestos found in buildings?

If you are responsible for maintaining all or part of a business premises you must also manage any asbestos in the premises. The purpose of this is to prevent or, where this is not reasonably possible, minimise exposure. You should:

  • establish whether the buildings contain asbestos and, if so, where it is and what condition it is in - if in doubt you must presume that materials contain asbestos
  • assess the risk
  • make a plan to manage that risk and act on it.

CIRIA has produced a mobile app that supports site workers to identify and report suspected asbestos-based items on site.

CIRIA: Asbestos site aid

Asbestos surveys

To identify potential asbestos materials in the building you may have to undertake an asbestos survey. The purpose of an asbestos survey is to:

  • help manage asbestos in your premises
  • provide accurate information on the location, amount and condition of asbestos-containing materials
  • assess the level of damage or deterioration and whether remedial action is required
  • use the survey information to prepare a record of the location of any asbestos, commonly called an asbestos register, and an asbestos plan of the building
  • help identify all asbestos materials to be removed before refurbishment work or demolition
  • establish a management plan to manage the risks from asbestos materials.

You may be able to conduct an in-house survey or you may need to employ an accredited specialist. You must make sure that the person conducting the survey has the correct experience and training, and they must conduct the survey in accordance with Health & Safety Executive (HSE) guidance.

HSE: Asbestos surveys

If you are in rented or shared premises you need to check whether you are responsible for obtaining this information. The person responsible may be the leaseholder or the owner, it may be shared between a number of leaseholders or it may pass to a managing agent. Check your tenancy agreement or contract to see if you are responsible for the maintenance and repair of your premises.

Building maintenance

If you are planning any maintenance or demolition work at your own premises, you will need to carry out an asbestos survey to locate and identify any materials containing asbestos. By identifying asbestos materials early in the project you can reduce the potential for delays and increased costs later.

If you are a maintenance, demolition or construction contractor, the owner or occupier of any building that you work on must supply you with detailed information on the location, type and condition of asbestos-containing materials within the structure of the building that may be hazardous to you or your employees' health or welfare.

If you work on the fabric of a building and are at risk of disturbing asbestos you must make sure that you and your employees are able to identify asbestos in case you find it unexpectedly. You must ensure that any worker who is likely to disturb asbestos materials as part of their work activities has received appropriate asbestos awareness training.

HSE: Asbestos training and industry standards

Further information

HSE: Where can you find asbestos?

HSE: Asbestos surveys

HSE: Asbestos training and industry standards

In this Guideline

Asbestos - What is it?

Where is asbestos found in buildings?

How to identify Asbestos

Working with Asbestos

Asbestos disposal

Asbestos environmental legislation

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