Asbestos sampling and testing

The only way to be certain that something contains asbestos is to have a sample tested.

Only experienced professionals should take asbestos samples, such as:

  • occupational hygienists,
  • licensed asbestos removalists and assessors,
  • individuals who have undertaken a recognised training course in asbestos identification, or
  • an accredited laboratory

If in doubt, treat the material as if it contains asbestos until it has been confirmed otherwise.

To find a licensed professional to take an asbestos sample you can call or visit the website of the work health and safety regulator in your state or territory.

It is recommended that all testing be undertaken by a NATA (National Association of Testing Authorities) accredited laboratory.

Taking an asbestos sample

Although it is not recommended, if you decide to take a sample yourself, it is important that you do it safely to make sure that you do not expose yourself or others to asbestos fibres.

Please read the below information if you are considering taking an asbestos sample yourself.

What you will need:

  • Pliers
  • Re-sealable plastic bags
  • Disposable coveralls
  • Waterproof sealant
  • Plastic drop sheets
  • 200µm (0.2mm) thick plastic waste bag
  • Water spray bottle
  • Detergent
  • Sticky tape
  • P2 respirator and rubber gloves

The above equipment required to take a sample, should be accessible at your local hardware store.

Step 1: Preparation

  • Before taking a sample, find an accredited laboratory. Contact the laboratory and get advice on how to transport your samples for testing.
  • Shut down any heating or cooling systems. This will minimise the spread of any fibres that might be released.
  • If you are inside, turn off any fans. If you are outside, make sure samples are not taken on a windy day.
  • Make sure no one else is around when taking the sample.

Step 2: Taking the sample

  • Wear disposable gloves, a P2 respirator and disposable coveralls.
  • Lay down a plastic drop sheet to catch any loose material that may fall off while taking the sample.
  • Fill the water spray bottle with water and add a few drops of detergent.
  • Use the spray bottle and set it to a fine mist to wet the material that you are taking a sample from. The mist will reduce the release of fibres.
  • Use the pliers to carefully cut a thumb-nail sized piece from the entire depth of the material that you are taking the sample from. Make sure to only take a small sample. Do not disturb the material any more than is needed.
  • For fibre cement sheeting, take the sample from a corner edge or along an existing hole or crack.
  • Place the small piece into a re-sealable plastic bag. Double bag the sample and place a label in a clear position with the date, location and any other information that may be useful to the laboratory. Use a label that will not wash or fall off.
  • Use a damp rag to clean up any material around the area that the sample was taken from.

Step 3 – Cleaning up

  • Seal the edges where the sample was taken by painting them with waterproof sealant (such as plastic paint or using a mixture of PVA glue and water with a ratio of 1:10)
  • Carefully wrap the plastic drop sheet and secure it with tape. Place this in a 200µm (0.2mm) thick plastic waste bag.
  • Wipe down all tools and equipment used with a damp rag.
  • Place the disposable gloves, coveralls, and damp rag into the plastic bag with the drop sheet and seal accordingly.
  • Place the sealed bag inside another bag and seal.
  • Mark the outer bag as containing asbestos waste and dispose it at a licensed asbestos waste facility.
  • Only remove your respirator once the entire clean-up process has been completed.
  • Shower and wash your hair to remove any residual fibres.
  • Arrange for the transportation of samples to the laboratory as per the laboratory’s advice.

Useful resources

Code of Practice – How to Manage and Control Asbestos in the Workplace

NATA Industry User Guide No. 7 Working With NATA Accredited Asbestos Facilities

Asbestos waste disposal facilities