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Asbestos risks in safes and fire resistant cabinets

The Authority is aware that concerns have been raised regarding the presence of asbestos in some older models of safes and secure/fireproof filing cabinets. The following Information Note has been prepared to help clarify the risks involved and to give advice on how to manage the relevant risks while complying with the Exposure to Asbestos Regulations. 

Asbestos risks in safes and fire resistant cabinets

Asbestos Safety for Tradespeople course. 

This course is designed for tradespeople who, during the course of their work, could potentially or unknowingly disturb asbestos containing materials (ACMs) causing asbestos fibres to be released into the air. Completion of this course does not in any way enable you to work with asbestos containing materials (ACMs) or enter any area under the control of an Asbestos Contractor. 

HSA Learning - Asbestos


The Health & Safety Authority (the Authority) is specifically targeting this alert at all duty-holders involved in the management of demolition or refurbishment works including Clients, Project Supervisors for the Design Process (PSDP), Project Supervisors for the Construction Stage (PSCS), Designers (including architects, engineers etc.) and contractors to ensure Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACMs) are correctly identified before such works take place and are dealt with accordingly.

Management of Asbestos Containing Material on Refurbishment and Demolition Sites

asbestos signage


What is asbestos?

Asbestos is the name for a group of natural occurring mineral fibres which are strong and both heat and chemically resistant.  Due to these properties, asbestos was commonly used in the past as insulation and fire proofing. It was also used as a component in other building materials. There are three main types of asbestos found in Ireland – chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos).

What is the risk from asbestos?

The risk associated with exposure to asbestos relates to the possibility that the fibres within the asbestos containing material (ACM) can become released into the air and are then inhaled. Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos-related diseases (mainly cancers of the chest and lungs). These diseases will not occur immediately and can take from 15 – 60 years to develop. Note that as long as asbestos is in good condition and there is no disturbance or damage to the ACM, it will not pose a risk to health as fibres will not be released.

Is asbestos banned? 

It is now prohibited to use, re-use, sell or supply asbestos or asbestos containing materials or products. However products or materials containing asbestos, which were already installed or in service prior to the prohibition, may remain in place until they are disposed of or reach the end of their service life. As a result, there is still potential for exposure to asbestos in a variety of workplaces (including domestic properties undergoing refurbishment) due to the large quantities of asbestos and ACM's which were used in buildings in the past.

Where is asbestos found?

Asbestos can be found in any industrial, commercial, public or residential building built or refurbished before the year 2000.  Asbestos was widely used in a large variety of construction materials for a number of purposes e.g. flooring, walls, ceiling, roofs, heating systems and equipment.  A detailed survey will be required to identify where asbestos is present in your building. An asbestos survey must be carried out by a competent person.

Who can identify asbestos? Who can carry out an asbestos survey?

The sampling and analysis of materials suspected to containing asbestos must only be undertaken by a competent person or company.  See selecting an Asbestos Surveyor

What are the types of asbestos surveys?

The purpose of the management asbestos survey is to manage asbestos-containing materials during the normal occupation and use of premises.

A refurbishment/demolition  asbestos survey (RDAS) is required where the premises, or part of it, needs upgrading, refurbishment or demolition.

What are the training requirements for asbestos? 

Asbestos awareness training must be provided for anyone who during the course of their work, could potentially or unknowingly disturb asbestos containing materials (ACMs) causing asbestos fibres to be released into the air and those involved in building management, refurbishment or design  e.g. Plumbers, Electricians, Facilities Managers, Designers, Architects, engineers, PSDP. Awareness Training does not in any way enable you to work with asbestos containing materials (ACMs).

For any work involving disturbance of asbestos e.g. surveying, encapsulation, removal work, specific documented practical training is required. See Asbestos Training Requirements 

Who can work with or remove asbestos?

A competent person must carry out any activity that involves disturbance of asbestos or asbestos containing material. All asbestos removal activities must be carried out by a competent person. The level of training, experience, knowledge and information required depends on the nature of the work. See Information on Asbestos Contractors  

Is asbestos removal notifiable to the HSA? 

The requirement to notify depends on the risk associated with the asbestos work.  See Asbestos Notifications  for further details. 

Who can carry out asbestos air monitoring? 

The need for air monitoring should be determined as part of the risk assessment of the work. It  must only be undertaken by a competent person or company.  See selecting an Asbestos Analyst. 

Guidance Document

The Health and Safety Authority has published a comprehensive guidance document on asbestos which includes the following:

  • Information on types of asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in buildings.
  • Health effects of asbestos and associated risks to different types of workers.
  • Risk assessment of ACMs and use of various risk assessment algorithms.
  • Various legislation applicable to asbestos in Ireland.
  • Managing ACMs in workplaces and developing an Asbestos Management Plan (AMP)
  • Protocol for Management Asbestos Surveys (MAS) and a Pre-refurbishment/demolition survey (RDAS).
  • Bulk sampling and analysis.
  • Training, instruction and information requirements.
  • Personal Protective Equipment for working with asbestos and ACMs.
  • Protocols for lower risk work with asbestos and ACMs
  • Protocols for higher risk work with asbestos and ACMs.
  • Contents of Plans of Work (method statements) for lower and higher risk asbestos work.
  • Role of the Independent Analyst, Four stage Clearance procedure and Certificates of Reoccupation .
  • Health surveillance and exposure registers.
  • Notification requirements.
  • Advice for management and disposal of asbestos and ACMs.


You can download a PDF copy of the asbestos guidelines here.

 Do you carry out repair, renovation or maintenance works in older buildings?

Do you transport asbestos containing material by road?