Do you need to label asbestos?

As an experienced multi-disciplined asbestos consultancy we are regularly asked by clients if they need to label their asbestos.

There is a misconception that asbestos has to be labelled but this is not the case. You don’t actually have to label asbestos but you do have to manage it.

In my mind, it is good practice to label asbestos because that acts as your last line of defence if all your other systems to prevent your asbestos being disturbed have broken down. When all else has failed it alerts contractors to the fact that the material they might be about to disturb is actually asbestos.

Are there places I shouldn’t label asbestos?

There are places where you may not want to label asbestos properly. Schools often don’t want to label their asbestos as unfortunately there have been cases where students have deliberately damaged asbestos in order to get their school to temporarily close.

Where might I always want to label asbestos?

We would suggest that you always label asbestos in plant rooms and boiler rooms. These rooms tend to be accessed regularly so it is vital that asbestos is clearly labelled in these rooms.

How should I label asbestos?

There are various ways to label your asbestos. You can have large labels, small labels, coloured labels etc. There are lots of ways to label asbestos, but we find the bigger and scarier, the better so it cannot be missed.

The tiny labels are terrible. Firstly, they don’t stick and secondly, they are so small you probably won’t see them. They have a small A on them and you need a magnifying glass to read them.

We recommend that clients use tri bands. These labels are multi-coloured and show three messages: ‘warning asbestos’ ‘do not disturb’ and ‘report any accidental damage.’ We place them in all back of house areas.

In public areas, we recommend you use a secret labelling system which includes symbols rather than words. Different symbols relate to different items where maintenance teams work. We are talking about squares, hexagons, coloured dots etc – they don’t mean anything to the public walking past but they keep people working onsite informed and warn them which items contain asbestos.

Some of our clients also choose to use labels which include reinspection information. This tells them when the asbestos was last surveyed and when it needs to be reinspected.

Where should I position my labels?

It is fairly obvious that most of the time you need to place your labels close to your asbestos products but sometimes you may need to consider placing your labels elsewhere. For example, we have seen companies laminate labels and place them high up on asbestos cement roofing. You cannot see those labels from the ground which makes them pointless. In this case you would be better to erect eye level wall signs, pointing upwards, so people can see them.

In summary

You don’t have to label your asbestos products but we would always recommend that you do, especially back of house. If you are worried about labelling asbestos in public areas introduce a secret labelling system to alert your contractors to the presence of asbestos on site. Whatever labelling you choose to use remember to ensure you have written procedures in place to form part of your asbestos management plan.

We’re a professional asbestos consultancy helping businesses deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or email [email protected]

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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