Guidance Note 3

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This Guidance Note gives practical information about asbestos awareness training.

Sample wording for a toolbox talk briefing has been included in Appendix 1. If you wish to use this information to construct your own documents, you must ensure that all references to Alcumus SafeContractor Accreditation have been removed and the final documents are clearly incorporated into your existing safety management system. You should ensure that the information is tailored to reflect the risks of exposure associated with your work activities and your company management procedures.

Legal Obligations

The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012 came into force on 6th April 2012, updating previous asbestos regulations.

The use of all asbestos containing materials was not banned until 1999. This means any building built or refurbished before the year 2000 could contain asbestos.

Therefore, under Regulation 10 of CAR 2012 every employer must ensure that adequate information, instruction and training is given to those employees who are liable to be exposed to asbestos during the course of their work.

All workers who are liable to disturb asbestos during their normal work should be trained so that they can recognise asbestos containing materials and know what to do if they come across them. The training needs to be appropriate for the work and the roles undertaken by individuals. There are three types of asbestos training:

  • Awareness training.

  • Training for work with asbestos that does not require a licence from HSE.

  • Training for asbestos work that does require a licence from HSE.

Asbestos awareness training

This is required for those persons who are liable to disturb asbestos whilst carrying out their normal everyday work, or who may influence how work is carried out. This includes, for example the following:

  • General maintenance staff.

  • Electricians.

  • Plumbers.

  • Gas fitters.

  • Painters and decorators.

  • Joiners.

  • Plasterers.

  • Demolition workers.

  • Construction workers.

  • Roofers.

  • Heating and ventilation engineers.

  • Telecommunications engineers.

  • Fire and burglar alarm installers.

  • Computer installers.

  • Architects, building surveyors and other such professionals.

  • Shop fitters etc.

This is not an exhaustive list.

Asbestos awareness training must include the following topics:

  • The properties of asbestos and its effects on health.

  • The types use and likely occurrence of asbestos and ACMs in buildings and plant.

  • The general procedures to be followed to deal with an emergency.

  • How to avoid the risks from asbestos.

All information, instruction and training given should include an appropriate level of detail, be suitable to the work being done, and use written materials, oral presentation and practical demonstration as necessary.

In order to meet the requirements of Regulation 10 a competent member of staff needs to run through a training session / toolbox talk with the members of staff and a signed and dated copy of the talk maintained in personnel / training files.


Exemption from training

Exemption from this requirement would apply only where the employer can demonstrate that work will only be carried out in or on buildings free of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs). This information should be available in the client's asbestos management plan.

Refresher Training

Awareness training is only intended to help employees avoid carrying out work that will disturb asbestos. There is no legal requirement therefore to repeat a formal refresher awareness training course every 12 months. However, some form of refresher awareness should be given, as necessary. Preferably training should be refreshed every 24 months. A common-sense approach to refreshing knowledge and skills, based on judgement of individual abilities and training needs should also be applied. The frequency of training could therefore be based upon several factors, as follows:

  • Change in work methods.

  • Gaps in competency are identified.

  • The type of work carried out changes significantly etc.

This is not an exhaustive list.

Refresher awareness training could be given as e-learning or as part of other health and safety updates, rather than through a formal training course. For example, an employer, manager or supervisor who has attended an awareness course and is competent to do so (see below) could provide internal training based on suitable material.

Competence of those providing training

All training should be provided by someone who is competent to do so. The individual must have adequate personal practical experience and theoretical knowledge of all relevant aspects of the work being carried out by the employer.

Completion of training

In order to complete any form of training session / toolbox talk, best practice would require that you develop a signature sheet detailing who had attended the session / talk, the date and signatures of the attendee’s as proof of understanding and acceptance of the session / talk and associated guidance.

Online learning

Online learning (often referred to as e–learning) is a viable delivery method, among others, for the delivery of information, instruction and training in relation to asbestos awareness training, provided the course content satisfies the objectives as stipulated in Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 and the supporting Approved Code of Practice.

Further Guidance

Appendix 1

Asbestos Awareness Toolbox Talk

The properties of asbestos and its effects on health


Asbestos is the name given to a group of naturally occurring fibrous minerals. It can come in several types; however, the following are the most common types used within industry:

  • Chrysotile (White).

  • Crocidolite (Blue).

  • Amosite (Brown).

The groups of asbestos fibres differ in their mechanical and chemical properties. The different types of asbestos can be found on their own or as a mixture with any other of the fibres. They cannot usually be identified by their colour alone. Where asbestos is affected by heat and chemicals or is combined with other substances, its colour and appearance can easily change.

The supply, importation and use of blue and brown asbestos was totally banned within the U.K. in 1985, with a general ban on white asbestos following in 1999 (there were slight exceptions for the specialist use of white asbestos, however a total ban came on 01/01/2005).

Work with asbestos can release small fibres into the air. Although the body will get rid of most of the larger fibres that can enter the nose and mouth, tiny fibres can pass into the lower parts of the lung. They can stay there for years and in some cases work their way through the lung lining. The body naturally gets rid of any asbestos fibres that you might take in with food and water. Asbestos fibres cannot be absorbed through your skin.


Health Affects:

Breathing in asbestos fibres can eventually lead to several fatal diseases/conditions:

  • Pleural Plaques.

  • Diffuse Pleural Thickening.

  • Asbestosis.

  • Lung Cancer.

  • Mesothelioma.

  • Cancers at other sites.

Working with asbestos can lead to an increased risk of developing lung cancer. Smoking can increase this risk further. These two risk factors combined appear to have an effect that is greater than the sum of the individual increases of risk from smoking or asbestos exposure alone. Ex-smokers have been shown to be at a significantly lower excess risk than current smokers.

There are no known cures for asbestos-related diseases, and they will generally appear many years after first exposure, which can vary between 15 and 60 years. The symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath.

  • A cough or a change in cough pattern.

  • Blood in the sputum (fluid) coughed up from the lungs.

  • Pain in the chest or abdomen.

  • Difficulty in swallowing or prolonged hoarseness and or

  • Significant weight loss.

There are approximately 3,500 deaths a year due to asbestos related diseases, with this due to increase to 10,000 by 2020.

If asbestos containing material is intact and in a position where it cannot easily be damaged, it will not pose a risk to health by releasing fibres into the air.

Many of the people currently suffering from asbestos related diseases formally worked in the building trade. They were exposed to asbestos fibres in their day to day work with asbestos containing materials or because work with asbestos was carried out near them. Therefore, take note of the following guidance and take the necessary action if you suspect that you are working on or near asbestos containing materials.


The Types, Uses and likely Occurrence of Asbestos and Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) in Buildings and Plant:

Although asbestos should have not been used as a new building material in any form since at least 1999, many thousands of tonnes of it were used in buildings in the past. A large amount of asbestos is still out there, and you cannot easily identify it from its appearance.

Asbestos is likely to be in a building if:

  • It was built or refurbished between 1950 and 1980 and particularly;

  • If it also has a steel frame; and/or

  • It has boilers with thermal insulation.

But you also need to bear in mind that asbestos cement has also been widely used as a building material since the 1950’s.

Some ACMs are more vulnerable to damage and more likely to give off fibres than others. In general, the materials which contain a high percentage of asbestos are more easily damaged. The list below is roughly in order of ease of fibre release (with the highest potential fibre release first). Sprayed coatings, lagging and insulating board are more likely to contain blue or brown asbestos. Asbestos insulation and lagging can contain up to 85% asbestos and are most likely to give off fibres. Work with asbestos insulating board can result in equally high fibre release if power tools are used. On the other hand, asbestos cement contains only 10% - 15% asbestos. The asbestos is tightly bound into the cement and the material will only give off fibres if it is badly damaged or broken.

You are most likely to come across asbestos in these materials:


Sprayed asbestos and asbestos loose packing - generally used as fire breaks in ceiling voids.


Moulded or preformed lagging - generally used in thermal insulation of pipes and boilers.

​Sprayed asbestos - generally used as fire protection in ducts, firebreaks, panels, partitions, soffit boards, ceiling panels and around structural steel work.

Insulating boards used for fire protection, thermal insulation, partitioning and ducts.

Some ceiling tiles.

Millboard, paper and paper products used for insulation of electrical equipment. Asbestos paper has also been used as a fire-proof facing on wood fibreboard.

Asbestos cement products, which can be fully or semi-compressed into flat or corrugated sheets. Corrugated sheets are largely used as roofing and wall cladding, Other asbestos cement products include gutters, rainwater pipes and water tanks.

Certain textured coatings.

Bitumen roofing material.

Vinyl or thermoplastic floor tiles.

Remember, although these are the most likely uses and places where asbestos will be found, asbestos was used in many other materials. If you are in doubt, it is safer to presume that a material contains asbestos, unless there is strong evidence that it does not.

The General Procedures to be followed to deal with an emergency e.g. an uncontrolled release of asbestos dust into the workplace.

In any circumstance where there is an accidental discovery or uncontrolled release of asbestos into the workplace then measures, including emergency procedures, should be in place to limit exposure and the risks to health. Such procedures should include means of raising the alarm and procedures for evacuation, which should be tested and practiced at regular intervals. The cause of the uncontrolled release should be identified, and adequate control regained as soon as possible.


Procedure 1

The following steps should be followed if an un-damaged asbestos containing material is discovered during a working process:

1. Discover ACM, stop work immediately
2. Keep everyone else out of the work area
3. Report problem to the person in charge as soon as possible
4. Put up a warning sign 'possible asbestos contamination'.


Procedure 2

If you discover an ACM in a bad condition or damage the ACM during the work activity, the following procedures will need to be followed:

1. Discover damaged ACM, stop work immediately
2. Keep everyone else out of the work area
3. Is there dust or debris on clothing (if no, follow procedure 1)
4. Remove the clothing and put it into a plastic bag
5. Try to wash thoroughly straight away or if the facilities are provided take a shower
6. Leave the washing facilities clean
7. Report the problem to the person in charge as soon as possible
8. Put up a warning sign ‘possible asbestos contamination’.

Step 3 of Procedure 1 and step 7 of Procedure 2 will require that you contact the site foreman as soon as possible. The site foreman will then contact head office and the site contact to inform them of the discovery and the procedures that had been followed. Head office will then liaise with the client to arrange for a sample to be analysed and the work area to be cleaned up if necessary. No-one will be allowed to re-enter the contaminated area for any reason until a clearance / re-occupation certificate has been issued to the client by the appropriate asbestos analysing / air monitoring company.

How to Avoid Risks from Asbestos

There are some simple procedures to be followed in order to help reduce the risk of employees encountering asbestos. Owners and occupiers of non-domestic premises, who have maintenance and repair responsibilities for those premises, have a duty under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 to assess the premises for the presence of asbestos and the condition of that asbestos (this duty has been enforced since 21st November 2004 under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2002). Where asbestos is present the duty holder must ensure that the risk from the asbestos is assessed, that a written plan identifying where that asbestos is located is prepared and that measures to manage the risk from the asbestos are set out in that plan and are implemented.

If the non-domestic premise does contain asbestos containing materials, there is no legal requirement for the asbestos to be removed. The owner/occupier will need to assess the condition of the product and then decide whether they will remove it or whether it will stay in place. If the ACM does stay in place the duty holder will need to ensure that it is either in a good condition or alternatively arrange for the product to be enclosed / sealed / encapsulated or repaired.

Therefore, before any work takes place on site, the site foreman or senior operative will request to see the Asbestos register for that site (please note, not all sites will have a register, please see section 1 below). The register will provide information on the location and condition of any asbestos containing material on that site. If the register details that asbestos containing material is present in the area that you are scheduled to work in, the site foreman/senior operative will contact head office for further confirmation on whether the work is to continue or whether alterations are to be made to the safe systems of work which were to be followed.


Section 1

Not all sites will have an asbestos register, this could be the case in several situations;
1. The site is too young for it to contain asbestos e.g. it was built after 1999,
2. The building will obviously not contain asbestos e.g. a steel built industrial unit
3. The site itself has had all asbestos removed.

If a site falls under category 1 or 2, remain cautious. There could be situations where a building contractor may have installed ACM’s that they still had in stock. Therefore, if you do come across a suspect material, follow procedures 1 or 2.

If a site falls under situation 3, ask for written confirmation / evidence that the asbestos has been removed by a licensed contractor.


All exposures to asbestos should be avoided, however, that does not mean that you should necessarily worry about a one-off exposure. From time to time, accidental exposures to asbestos may occur and can be a cause of much concern and distress to the individuals concerned. Your risk of developing an asbestos-related disease depends how much asbestos you are exposed to, for how long and on how many different occasions. A one-off short-term exposure is unlikely to be of concern, but each time you are exposed, the risk increases a little bit more. Think of this like smoking. The more times you smoke, the greater your risk of developing cancer.


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