How to identify asbestos roof tiles
As a building material asbestos was very widely used between the 1950s and 90s, especially as a roofing material due to its fire-resistant properties. They are a cement-based material, known for being hard wearing and can last for more than 40 years.
Asbestos roof tiles are usually square-shaped, and their colour is generally a combination of grey and black. However asbestos can be a range of colours, depending on the material it is mixed with. The only way to accurately identify asbestos roof tiles is to have them tested by a UKAS accredited laboratory.
Types of asbestos in roofing tiles
The building industry in the UK used three types of asbestos during the heyday for asbestos use: chrysolite (white), amosite (brown) and crocidolite (blue). Each type has a different associated risk level with white being the least dangerous and blue being the most. While asbestos cement tiles generally contain chrysolite, examples containing amosite and crocidolite have also been found.
Are asbestos roof tiles dangerous?
When left undisturbed, and in good condition, asbestos poses a minimal risk. However, if asbestos is moved, disturbed or damaged, it can release fibres and particles into the air which, when inhaled, can cause serious health problems including asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma, the asbestos related cancer.
What should you do if you suspect asbestos roofing tiles?
Before any work takes place it is the duty of the building’s owner or manager to ensure that the building’s asbestos register is up to date and that an asbestos refurbishment survey is carried out to make sure that any planned work will not disturb any asbestos containing materials (ACMs).
There is also a duty for the person(s) in charge of the job to carry out appropriate checks and ensure that workers have appropriate training, equipment and supervision, as well as developing the appropriate planning to avoid asbestos exposure. More information can be found via the Health & Safety Executive.
However, if you are working on a roof, and you suspect that you are in the presence of asbestos you should:
- Stop working immediately
- Notify the person(s) in charge that you think asbestos is present or if you think work needs to be carried out by a licenced contractor
- You should also, when work resumes, always follow the plan of work and essentials guidance sheets (located on the HSE website), making sure you use the correct sheet for the job. In addition:
- Make sure you take account of other risks
- Use the right protective equipment, worn properly
- Clean up as you go
- Make sure waste is double-bagged and disposed of properly in a licenced tip
- Wash before breaks and before going home
- Check whether the work should be notified
- Make sure you are adequately trained before you start work
Sampling asbestos containing roof tiles
If you have been notified that there is suspected asbestos present in a building or site you manage or are responsible for then your first step, after stopping work, is to arrange for asbestos sampling to take place. Since sampling does not require an asbestos licence, you can do this yourself if a part of the suspected ACMs has already broken off and you can safely bag it without spreading debris or exposing yourself to dust. You should:
- Be careful where you walk
- Dampen the sample
- Place it in a self-sealing polythene bag
- Place this in a second self-sealing polythene bag
- Label the sample
- Arrange for it to be tested by an UKAS accredited asbestos testing laboratory
If you cannot carry this out safely, you should arrange for a UKAS accredited company to conduct a sampling survey on your behalf. ASI Environmental has full UKAS accreditation for asbestos sampling and testing and, with a national network of surveyors and our own in-house laboratory, we are always on hand to test for asbestos so you can get back to work.
If you’d like to arrange either asbestos sampling or testing then please get in touch to see how we can help.