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  9. Asbestos and the NEBOSH National General Certificate

Asbestos and the NEBOSH National General Certificate


Taking an asbestos sample for testing or removal

The health risks posed by asbestos dust are so great and severe that a general qualification like the NEBOSH National General Certificate is not in-depth enough to provide workers and individuals with sufficient knowledge to work with asbestos, such as removing it during demolition or renovation work.

Rather, the NEBOSH General Certificate provides a general overview of the health and safety risks that are posed by asbestos, with a view of making individuals aware of the danger and the next level/what needs to be done with regards to further and more detailed knowledge and health and safety training required.

Even a health and safety course which concentrates solely on asbestos may not provide the level of knowledge required for a person to adequately and safely perform their workplace duties. For example, our online Asbestos Awareness course only intends to provide an overview of the dangers and important information, such as what needs to be done when encountering asbestos, an outline of the primary health and safety legislation regarding asbestos and keeping people safe from harm. This includes both employees and members of the public who may be on or near the site where the work is being carried out.

What is Asbestos and Why Is/Was it Used?

Rather than one specific substance, the name “asbestos” actually refers to a group of naturally occurring minerals. Although all pose a risk to health, some are considered slightly more dangerous than others.

Asbestos was used extensively in building projects and as insulation because of its fireproof properties. It is also resistant to electricity and corrosion.

Unfortunately, whilst it might be excellent in terms of insulating and preventing fires from spreading in a building, the health risks and conditions associated with it, such as mesothelioma and other cancers, are often fatal, meaning it is extremely hazardous to health, so much so that its use has been banned in many countries across the world.

Why is Asbestos so Dangerous?

Asbestos is dangerous to health when it is disturbed. Loose fibres in the air can be inhaled which then settle in the lungs. These microscopic fibres are sharp, and cause damage to the lining of the lungs. The body keeps repairing this damage over and over again, and the persistent tissue damage can lead to tumours and cancer.

The fibres cannot be broken down or cleared by the body, and this repeating process of damage and repair can typically take decades before cancer may develop.

Where is Asbestos Most Likely to be Found?

Different parts of the world introduced regulations at different times, but asbestos is most likely to be found in buildings constructed or renovated before the 1980s-2000, when legislation was introduced to prevent its use.

Before this, it was commonly used in floors, ceilings and around pipework because of its fire retardant and insulation properties.

Is Asbestos Dangerous All of the Time?

Despite the known dangers of asbestos, there has not been an almighty rush to remove it from buildings. This is primarily because asbestos only poses a danger to health when it is disturbed and the fibres are thrown up into the air and inhaled. Even so, as public awareness of the risks of asbestos grow, many people are nervous about its presence and feel happier when it is no longer there.

Who is Most at Risk?

The most likely people to come into contact with asbestos are those in the building and maintenance trades who will naturally visit many different properties of all ages and conditions.

People working in other professions may also be at high risk of encountering asbestos. These include:

  • Firefighters
  • Industrial Workers
  • Power Plant Workers
  • Shipyard Workers


Of course, anybody has the potential to come into contact with asbestos, so it is a subject that everyone needs to learn about. Performing DIY or renovations on your own home could expose you to asbestos, and you may not even know that your house contains it. If in any doubt, it is always better to get a qualified professional out to check first.

If it is present, it will need to be removed by professionals who have the proper training, the specialist necessary protective equipment and the means to dispose of it safely. Never attempt to do anything with it yourself.

The Topic of Asbestos on a NEBOSH General Certificate Course

Asbestos is just one of many areas where the NEBOSH National General Certificate provides an introduction to a health and safety issue rather than comprehensive coverage of the subject. Even so, the course attendee can put the information learned to great effect; being aware of the main dangers and learn what to look out for to avoid an accident or incident, but will not provide a level of detail which makes them an expert or suitably qualified to perform certain high-risk tasks like asbestos removal.

Like the other issues covered on a NEBOSH General Certificate training course, such as electrical safety or using certain types of machinery safely, the qualification does not attempt to cover these issues in a tremendous amount of detail. Instead, it aims to provide a level of detail which is needed to make people aware of the risks and keep them safe from harm, but in a general way to make it suitable for the great variety of roles and industries that will be represented by students in the room. It is not intended as a one-stop course which goes into great detail and makes students experts in every topic on the syllabus.

The Need for Expert Health and Safety Training Advice

It is always necessary to seek expert advice to ensure that the health and safety training you receive is suitable for the intended purpose. Otherwise not only could you be breaking the law, but are also likely to be putting lives in danger; both your own and those of other people.

As far as asbestos danger is concerned, studying for a NEBOSH General Certificate qualification will give you a good awareness of the risks to health posed by asbestos, but it will certainly not make you an expert or qualify you to undertake tasks such as its removal.

NEBOSH General Certificate Articles

Please see below for some articles related to the NEBOSH General Certificate qualification which you may be interested in:

Articles related to the NEBOSH General Certificate course

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