What Type of Asbestos Removal Do I Need?

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral and has been used in various products throughout the twentieth century mainly due to its fantastic thermal and insulation properties.

We are now aware of the far-reaching implications of asbestos on health however this was not always the case. It is a highly toxic material and when people are exposed to asbestos dust (the fibres released to the air when disturbed or damaged), through inhalation or ingestion, the harmful mineral fibres remain within the body.

Asbestos exposure can lead to life-limiting diseases including Mesothelioma, Asbestosis cancer, and lung cancer. Exposure to asbestos also has a long latency period. The individual may not show symptoms of an asbestos related disease until 20-50 years after the initial exposure.

It is therefore crucial, that asbestos is removed safely and professionally.

But how do you know what type of removal is required?

Prior to beginning an asbestos removal project, an asbestos survey should be carried out to determine the type, location, condition and amount of asbestos present. This survey will then dictate the type of asbestos removal that is required.

When considering which type of asbestos removal is required on a project, the following must be taken into account:

  • Friability – friability indicates how easily an asbestos material will break down into smaller pieces. The more friable the material, the more fibres it is likely to release and therefore it has a higher risk level.
  • ACM (Asbestos Containing Material) – many types of asbestos containing materials such as asbestos cement sheets and floor tiles would be classified as non-licensed. However, if the material has been damaged or condition deteriorated, this may affect the amount of fibres likely to be released during removal and therefore change the type of removal classification require.
  • Exposure Levels– the regularity and intensity of the workers exposure to asbestos fibres will affect the classification of removal required. For example, if the individual is required to spend more than one hour a week working on highly friable asbestos materials, a licensed contractor will be required.

Licensed Asbestos Removal

Licensed asbestos removal refers to the removal of high-risk asbestos, requiring a licensed contractor.

The level of exposure and therefore associated risk level, determines whether an asbestos product requires a licensed contractor or not.

The HSE (Health and Safety Executive) state that any exposure which is not either sporadic or low intensity is classified as licensed asbestos removal work.

A licensed asbestos removal will also be required for any significant amount of loose asbestos debris which is above a low intensity and above the control limit. The control limit for exposure is 0.1 asbestos fibres per cubic centimetres of air averaged over a four hour period.

Examples of Licensed Asbestos Removal

  • Asbestos insulating board (AIB)
  • The removal of sprayed coatings (limpet asbestos)
  • Removal work which may disturb pipe lagging
  • Any work involving loose-fill insulation


Non-Licensed Asbestos Removal

Non-licensed asbestos removal is simply when the job doesn’t require the individual to hold a license to carry out the works.

This depends on the level of risk the asbestos materials pose, which is evaluated by analysing the type, friability and exposure levels as explained above.

The Health & Safety Executive state that for asbestos removal to be classified as non-licensed, the concentration of asbestos must be of low intensity and sporadic. The asbestos levels in the air must not exceed 0.6/cm3 when measured over ten minutes as part of a risk assessment.

If the works fall below these levels, a second test must also be carried out over four hours to ensure that fibres within the air do not exceed 0.1 per cubic centimetres of air.

Examples of Non-Licensed Asbestos Removal

  • Asbestos cement
  • Asbestos textured coatings
  • Asbestos floor tiles
  • Asbestos textiles
  • Asbestos composites

Notifiable Non-Licensed Asbestos Removal

For some types of non-licensed works, there are additional requirements. This is classified as notifiable non-licensed asbestos removal work. It is usually the case when a large amount of what would be classified as non-licensed material has been substantially damaged or spread over a large area. It requires that the HSE is notified and has additional record keeping requirements and surveillance needs.

Notifiable non-licensed asbestos removal demands that the operator is suitably trained, can demonstrate competency, is under medical surveillance (every 3 years) and health records (registers of work) are maintained.

Examples of Notifiable Non-Licensed Asbestos Removal

  • Large-scale removal of asbestos textured decorative coatings using steaming or gelling methods
  • Asbestos cement products where the material has been substantially damaged or broken up (as a result of fire or flood damage) or wherein the removal will damage the cement sheeting and release a significant amount of dust containing asbestos fibres