PPE for working with asbestos

What PPE should you wear when working with asbestos?

PPE must be worn when working with asbestos containing materials in order to protect the wearer from exposure to harmful asbestos fibres.

But firstly, it’s important to note that anyone carrying out any work with asbestos must be properly trained, have the correct equipment to do the job and they must adhere to and follow UK asbestos safety regulations.

There are certain pieces of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) kit that must be worn in order to carry out asbestos work safely.

By wearing the correct PPE kit, you will also be ensuring that you are complying to the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Below are details of the specific items of PPE that anyone working with non licensed asbestos materials must wear.

Disposable coveralls – Essential asbestos PPE

An essential item of PPE for working with asbestos is a disposable coverall.

Your disposable coverall should be a Type 5/6 and ideally have a hood.

These are usually available in a selection of colours and sizes to choose from.

Depending on whether you are working indoors or outdoors, you may need the coverall to be waterproof.

It is advised that to prevent any ripping at the seams, you should wear a size larger than normal if possible.

Any loose cuffs should be sealed with tape so there are no gaps that will allow asbestos fibres to get into the coverall.

Never tuck the legs of your coverall into shoes or boots as this will mean asbestos dust will fall into the footwear instead on onto the floor.

If the coverall has a hood (which it should), then the hood must be pulled up onto the wearer’s head and should cover any RPE straps.

Asbestos coveralls can only be worn once as PPE and must not be taken home with you.

For safety reasons, it’s vital that once you’ve finished working with asbestos materials, you safely dispose of any used coveralls with the asbestos waste and other disposable PPE.

white hooded type 5/6 coverall
A white type 5/6 coverall should be part of your essential PPE kit

Disposable Gloves – strongly advised PPE

It is strongly advised that you wear disposable gloves as part of your PPE kit to work with asbestos.

Then once you’ve finished with the task in hand, you just need to dispose of them safely along with any other disposable PPE and asbestos waste.

Suitable Footwear – recommended

Although disposable overshoes are available as asbestos PPE, it’s a better and safer option to wear boots as they’re much less of a slipping hazard.

Just ensure that you wear boots without laces as asbestos dust is less likely to become trapped, and they’ll be much easier to clean!

Respirators – Essential asbestos PPE

RPE (Respiratory Protective Equipment) is arguably the most essential piece of PPE kit when it comes to protecting workers from asbestos dust and fibres.

But it’s essential that the correct RPE is worn to offer maximum protection against asbestos.

More often than not, this is what people tend to get wrong when it comes to PPE for work with asbestos.

When choosing a suitable face mask or respirator, you must firstly ensure that it’s been assigned with a UK protection factor (APF) of 20 or more.

A respirator must allow you the freedom to communicate easily with colleagues and fit well with the rest of your safety equipment.

Disposable respirators for use with asbestos

Disposable respirators are a good choice when it comes to basic but essential asbestos PPE.

Any disposable respirator/face mask should conform to UK standards EN 149 (type FFP3) or alternatively EN 1827 (type FMP3).

They are typically white face masks with two straps, and often feature an exhalation valve for improved comfort.

A ‘CE’ mark will usually be printed somewhere on them along with ‘EN149:2001’.

These disposable respirators are designed to provide effective protection against fine respirable dusts such as asbestos, mists and metal fumes.

Making them an essential part of your asbestos PPE kit.

Again, a disposable face mask or respirator can only be worn once for a single use.

It must be disposed of safely with other asbestos waste, including other disposable PPE such as gloves and coveralls.

disposable respirator essential asbestos PPE
A disposable Respirator with a valve protects against asbestos

Please don’t confuse disposable respirators with Nuisance dust masks and gauze pads.

These DO NOT meet the European Standard (EN149:2001) for respirators and are not CE marked, so they don’t have any of this information printed on the mask.

Also, they do not provide protection against fine lung damaging dusts such as asbestos and cannot be used as PPE (personal protective equipment).

nuisance dust mask
A nuisance dust mask with no valve is NOT suitable to wear as PPE

Other types of respirator for use with asbestos

For better personal protection against asbestos exposure, a reusable half-mask respirator is advised as part of your PPE kit, which must meet standard EN 140 and come with a P3 filter.

Or alternatively, a semi-disposable respirator conforming to EN 405 with a P3 filter will suffice.

Any used P3 filters must be disposed of safely along with general asbestos waste and disposable PPE that has been worn.

All forms of RPE mentioned above, including disposable and resuable respirators, are designed for short duration use only.

Therefore, they should only be used for non licensed asbestos work.

For work with asbestos that is classed as licensed, or the work to be carried out is more extensive, then wearing these forms of RPE is not advised.

Sundstrom half face respirator mask asbestos
A Sundstrom half face respirator will protect against asbestos dust

Fit testing your asbestos mask or respirator

Achieving a good fit is essential to the level of personal protection offered by your RPE.

A leaking mask or respirator not fitted correctly could be perceived as comfortable, but is not much better than using no respirator at all.

Wearers must be clean shaven and have no stubble to ensure a tight fit against the face.

Always select a respirator that meets the European Standard, is CE marked and offers you the right level of comfort and protection…..and ensure that you fit it correctly.

Checking that a respirator with a tight fitting facepiece provides an adequate seal to the wearer’s face has long been considered best practice as part of a general Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE) programme.

Fit testing has been a mandatory requirement under the UK Asbestos Regulations and now, with the introduction of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulation 2002 (COSHH) and the supporting Approved Codes of Practice, fit testing is an industry wide requirement.

Fit testing should be carried out:

Fit testing should be repeated at appropriate times such as:

Fit testing is in addition to the requirement to perform a pre-use fit check.

Workers will have to wear their RPE all the time until they’re away from the contaminated air.

Non disposable RPE must be cleaned thoroughly after each use and stored in a safe place.

Two main methods of fit testing are available:

Qualitative fit testing

Qualitative fit tests provide a pass or fail result based upon the wearer detecting a test agent.

They provide a subjective measure of the quality of the seal of the facepiece to the wearer’s face.

These tests may be carried out by a suitably trained company Safety Advisor.

Quantitative fit testing

Quantitative fit tests give an objective measure of the quality of the seal between the wearer’s face and the facepiece.

A fit factor number is produced. These tests will usually be carried out by a fit test consultant.

If you need any further help or advice about face fit testing, then please get in touch as we have a fit2fit accredited face fit tester here at Armco Asbestos Consultants.

Likewise, if you have any questions at all about selecting the correct PPE kit for working with asbestos, just give us a call on 0161 763 3727 and we’ll be happy to help advise you.


Did you enjoy our article on mesothelioma survival rates?  Then check out our latest posts below.

Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their properties, carrying out an asbestos survey in their building so as not to put employees at risk.

So make sure you contact our Armco office to arrange asbestos testing or an asbestos survey, before it’s too late! 

Whether you need an asbestos management survey, or a refurbishment/ demolition survey, contact us on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting https://www.armco.org.uk/

Finally, for all your asbestos training needs call 0161 761 4424 or visit https://www.armcoasbestostraining.co.uk/to book an asbestos awareness training course.

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Published May 13, 2020
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