Identifying asbestos is something that many will claim to be able to do, but few have the necessary training and experience. In order to accurately identify asbestos-containing materials (ACM) there are many factors that need to be considered. Acquiring this knowledge requires specialist training and many years of experience. Even then, the suspect material still needs to be sampled and sent to a laboratory for an accurate analysis.
How to visually identify ACM
The first stage of any identification is to make a visual assessment of the suspect material. At this stage a number of factors will be considered such as the age of the building, the location of the material and its intended use. For example, pipe insulation in a boiler room, in a building built in the 1950s, is highly-likely to be an ACM.
Its important to note that while visual identification is normally adequate we’d always recommend laboratory analysis before undertaking any works on a suspect material. The costs associated with the removal of an ACM are considerably different to a non-asbestos material. We’d also recommend that the person making the visual identification can demonstrate that they have sufficient knowledge to do so. Ideally you would use a trained professional from a UKAS accredited surveying organisation or an HSE licensed contractor.
Sampling and analysis
Once you’ve visually identified a material you may wish to go one step further and get a sample of the material analysed. There are a number of UKAS-accredited (mandatory) laboratories throughout the UK that perform sample analysis. Before, doing so you should take a representative sample but, as this could potentially expose you to the harmful fibres, we’d recommend that you contact the lab and ask them to visit your property (there will be a cost associated). If you are taking a sample from your home and are determined to take your own sample then ensure that you dampen down the area before sampling and wear an original mask during the sampling process. The simplest way to take the sample is with a sharp knife or with long nosed pliers.
If you wish to carry out asbestos identification throughout a building then we’d recommend using a specialist survey organisation.