A guide to Asbestos Awareness Training

Aug 25, 2021 | Asbestos

Asbestos Awareness training is a legal requirement if your work could foreseeable disturb the fabric of a building and expose you to asbestos. This includes those who supervise the work. But what is asbestos and why do you need asbestos awareness training? 

What is Asbestos? 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring substance, which was commonly used as heat insulation and fire protection in construction before the 1980s. Asbestos is a general term, referring to 6 different minerals – all of which pose a risk to human health.

Type of asbestos Appearance Uses
Chrysotile (white asbestos) White, soft, and ‘fluffy’ This is the most common type of asbestos. It is also the major commercial form of asbestos. Chrysotile accounts for over 95% of all asbestos in the world. The curly fibres of Chrysotile are harder to inhale and poses less risk of becoming embedded in lung tissue but can be just as dangerous as other forms of asbestos
Amosite (brown asbestos) Light brown and straight Amosite asbestos is made of long, thin fibres which can easily be inhaled and lodged into lung tissue if inhaled. Amosite containing products could include vinyl tiles, roofing products, cement sheets and fire protection products.
Crocidolite (blue asbestos) Grey/blue in colour Widely considered to be the most harmful form of asbestos, crocidolite was widely used to insulate steam engines. Other uses of Crocidolite could include battery casings, ceiling tiles, insulation and fireproofing, and even cigarette filters.
Anthophyllite Grey, dull green or white in colour Most commonly used in composite flooring. Anthophyllite may also be found in chrysotile asbestos, vermiculite
Tremolite and actinolite Brown, white, green, grey or transparent. Not used commercially, however, appear as contaminants in chrysotile asbestos, vermiculite and talc


Why is Asbestos dangerous?

According to the Health & Safety Executive, 5000 people die every year from asbestos exposure, and 20 tradesmen die every week from past asbestos exposure.

When asbestos is disturbed, small thin fibres are released into the air. These fibres can be inhaled into your lungs, where they can become lodged or embedded and cause health issues. These issues won’t happen right away, asbestos-related illnesses can take a long time to develop. Once you have been diagnosed with an asbestos-related illness, there is often little to do about it. Asbestos awareness training is necessary for anybody working around asbestos, so they know how to protect themselves and reduce the likelihood of inhaling the fibres and developing asbestos-related illnesses.

Who is at risk of asbestos related illnesses?

You may have been exposed to asbestos if you worked in an industry such as building, demolition or construction, particularly from the 1970s to the 1990s. Any building built before 2000 could likely hold asbestos-containing materials that could potentially be hazardous to your health if disturbed.

The people most at risk of asbestos-related illnesses are those whose work puts them at risk of disturbing asbestos in older buildings. This could include:


  • Electricians
  • Demolition workers
  • Caretakers
  • Plumbers
  • Roofing contractors
  • Shopfitters
  • Heating and ventilation engineers

What are asbestos related illnesses?


Mesothelioma is a kind of cancer that affects the lining of the lungs (pleura) and the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract (peritoneum). It is almost exclusively related to asbestos exposure and by the time it is diagnosed, it is almost always fatal.

Asbestos-related Lung Cancer

Asbestos-related lung cancer is the same as (looks the same as) lung cancer caused by smoking and other causes. It is estimated that there is around one lung cancer for every mesothelioma death.


Asbestosis is a serious scarring condition of the lung that normally occurs after heavy exposure to asbestos over many years. This condition can cause progressive shortness of breath, and in severe cases can be fatal.

Pleural Thickening

Pleural thickening is a disease that causes the thickening of the lung lining (pleura). Thickening of the pleura could be an indicator of dangerous levels of asbestos exposure, and could also be a sign of pleural mesothelioma or lung disease.

How are these illnesses treated?

There are currently no treatments to reverse the effects of asbestos exposure. However, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, some treatments may help relieve symptoms, slow the progress of the disease, prevent complications, and even help patients live longer with an asbestos-related illness. If you have a lung disease caused by exposure to asbestos, you will need lifelong care, including regular chest X-rays, chest CT scans, and more.

For this reason, workers that could be exposed to asbestos must be aware of the risks that it poses before it is too late. Asbestos fibres are easily breathed in where they can scar your lungs, and you may not notice any symptoms until 10-40 years later.

Asbestos Awareness training aims to educate the workforce about the risks that asbestos can pose when disturbed. Under Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, a relevant level of asbestos training is required for every employee that is or is liable to be exposed to asbestos. This includes anyone that supervises or oversees these employees. Each employee needs to have the relevant information to be able to work safely around asbestos. This is vital to ensuring that work is carried out efficiently and safely, with no risk to employees’ health.

What Asbestos Awareness training do I need?

Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states:

“Every employer must ensure that [their] employee[s] are given adequate information, instruction and training where that employee is, or is liable to be, exposed to asbestos, or if that employee supervises such employees.”

It is the employer’s legal duty to consider which type of asbestos training is suitable for their employees to meet the requirement of providing ‘adequate’ training.

The three categories of asbestos awareness training include:

  • Asbestos Awareness Training (Category A).
  • Non-Licensed Asbestos Training (Category B).
  • Licensed Asbestos Work (Category C).

Asbestos Awareness Training (Category A)

Asbestos Awareness (Category A) training is a legal requirement for anyone who may encounter asbestos but is not required to work with it. For example, it is suitable and a requirement for an employee who needs to avoid work that may disturb asbestos during any normal work. This may be because the fabric of a building is being worked on, or other items which might contain asbestos.

Asbestos awareness training should be given to employees who may encounter asbestos, but aren’t required to work with it.  This also includes anybody whose role is to supervise or influence the work. An example of this situation is an employee on a construction site where the fabric of a building is being worked on, but they are not required to work with or handle asbestos-containing materials.

Please be aware that Category A does not provide an adequate level of training for employees or supervisors working directly with or removing asbestos-containing materials. If this will be involved in your work, please refer to Category B or C training.

This requirement doesn’t apply if the employer can demonstrate that the work is being carried out on premises that are free of asbestos-containing materials.

Category A does not provide adequate training for working directly with or removing asbestos-containing materials. Those types of activities will require either Category B or C training.

Asbestos Awareness Training UKATA

Asbestos Awareness (UKATA)

Asbestos awareness training is required to be given to employees whose work could foreseeably expose them to asbestos.

Non-Licensable Asbestos Awareness Training (Category B)

Non-licensed and notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW) involves directly working with or disturbing asbestos-containing materials in some capacity, which means workers need a higher level of information, instruction, and training than what is given in Category A.

This asbestos awareness training is necessary for any employee who will be directly working with or disturbing asbestos-containing materials in some capacity.

This training is much more specific than category A training and should cover a wider range of topics such as:

  • Minimising asbestos exposure with preventative controls
  • Risk assessments with asbestos awareness
  • Safe work practices, control measures, and protective equipment including RPE and PPE (in accordance with the manufacturers instructions and information)
  • Face fit testing
  • Emergency procedures
  • Waste handling
  • Relevant regulations, ACOPs and guidance that apply to asbestos work.
  • Work requiring a notification as NNLW or work which requires an HSE license.

Examples of notifiable non-licensed work (NNLW) with asbestos could include the removal of asbestos cement products, asbestos paper and cardboard products, and work involving asbestos insulation boards.

Non-Licensed Work with Asbestos NNLW Training UKATA

Non-Licensed Work with Asbestos including NNLW (UKATA)

This asbestos awareness training course is relevant to any persons carrying out non-licensed works with asbestos-containing materials.

Licensable work with Asbestos Training (Category C)

Most of the higher-risk work with asbestos must only be done by a licensed contractor. According to HSE, Licensable work with asbestos is work:

  • where worker exposure to asbestos is not sporadic and of low intensity; or
  • where the risk assessment cannot clearly demonstrate that the control limit will not be exceeded ie 0.1 asbestos fibres per cubic centimetre of air (0.1 f/cm3) (averaged over a four hour period); or
  • on asbestos coating; or
  • on asbestos insulation or asbestos insulating board where the risk assessment demonstrates that the work is not short duration work, eg when work with these materials will take no more than two hours in any seven day period, and no one person works for more than one hour in that two hour period.

Some examples of licensable work with asbestos could include removing sprayed coatings, work involving loose-fill insulation, clearing significant quantities of loose/fine debris containing ACM dust.

Licensable work with asbestos training should include topics such as the following:

  • The health risks posed to families and other contacts when asbestos fibres are taken away on contaminated equipment
  • The increased risk of lung cancer for those who smoke and work with asbestos simultaneously.
  • Minimising asbestos exposure with preventative controls
  • Risk assessments with asbestos awareness
  • Safe work practices, control measures, and protective equipment including RPE and PPE (in accordance with the manufacturers instructions and information)
  • Site set up
  • Controlled removal techniques
  • Waste handling
  • Emergency procedures

If the activity is licensable, you will require a licence if you are working with asbestos as an ‘asbestos contractor’ on someone else’s premises, or within your own premises using your own employees. This may include conditions requiring the holder to achieve specific objectives or restrict the license holder to specific work. For more information on obtaining a license for work with asbestos, please see the HSE guidance. It is an offence to carry out licensable work with asbestos without a licence and you could be prosecuted.

Licensed Work with Asbestos Training

Licensed Work with Asbestos (UKATA)

The Licensed Work with Asbestos training course is required for those holding an HSE Licence for carrying out work with or removing asbestos-containing materials that are relatively high risk.

Refresher Training Guidance

According to the HSE, refresher training for licensable and non-licensed work should be given every year, or more frequently if:

  • Your work methods change
  • The type of equipment used to control exposure changes
  • The type of work carried out changes significantly
  • Gaps in an employee or supervisor’s competency are identified.

Refresher training is advised to help employees and supervisors avoid carrying out work that will disturb asbestos, as well as be aware of the risks that asbestos poses when disturbed and how to prevent such risks.


It is the employer’s duty to recognise which type of asbestos awareness training is required. Every employee who could foreseeably be working with or around asbestos should be given adequate information to reduce the risk of asbestos causing long-term illness to the employee. Asbestos awareness will help employers become aware of how to prevent exposure to asbestos-containing materials, and equip them with the knowledge to work safely and efficiently around asbestos.

POD Training and Consultancy offers all 3 categories of asbestos awareness training, and we can advise you on which category of training is best for the work you will be carrying out – as well as any licensing or equipment requirements you will need to be aware of before working on-site. Our asbestos courses are developed in collaboration with UKATA, which is the leading authority on asbestos training in the UK.

Asbestos Awareness (Category A) | Non-licensed Work With Asbestos including NNLW (Category B) | Licensed work with Asbestos (Category C)

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