How To Take a Sample of Suspect Asbestos Boarding

If you have a property in the UK built before 1990 there is a chance it could contain asbestos. One of the major products that can contain asbestos is boarding – particularly AIB (asbestos insulation board) and asbestos cement board. Below, we explain how to safely take samples of these asbestos boards to be sent off for testing.

Advised Personal Protective Equipment

If you order one of our asbestos sampling kits you have the added benefit of receive all the required PPE to keep you safe as you obtain board samples, this includes: 

The coveralls do not go over your feet, therefore it’s advised to tuck them into your socks. The FFP3 mask is CE Certified to EN149:2001+A12:2009 specifically for protection against asbestos and the gloves will protect your hands from any contamination.

When you receive your asbestos sampling kit you will receive a set of detailed instructions that are easy to follow and explain the PPE, the sample requirements, and a step-by-step process. Below, we outline a 6-step process specifically for asbestos board.

Step 1 – Make sure you have all the relevant PPE on beforehand 

All PPE should be worn and adjusted before entering the area you need to collect samples from. HSE has guidelines on asbestos samples[1], and you should never attempt to do this without PPE as you are putting yourself and others in danger.

There should be no gaps in your coveralls (between your gloves and feet), and the hood should be pulled tightly over your head with the FFP3 mask underneath.

Step 2 – Cordon the area off and make people aware of the danger

Well before you start the sampling process you must also make everyone on the premises aware of what you are doing. This also falls under part of your duty to manage asbestos[2] if you are the responsible duty holder.

The area should be cordoned off and everyone must be made aware of where the potential ACM is, and when you are doing the sampling. 

Step 3 – Break off board samples 

The difficult part with asbestos board sampling is that unless there is already broken pieces, you must physically break off small chunks for testing.

The samples only have to be small – such as the size of a 50p coin. But this still means disturbing the asbestos cement board or insulation board and potentially making the fibres airborne. 

To reduce the potential release of asbestos fibres when taking a sample it is recommended that you soak the area you are sampling with water. We advise using a spray bottle containing water and a few drops of washing up liquid. Spray the area well ensuring its as saturated as possible (this helps with dust suppression).

You must use a tool like pliers to carefully break off a corner of the asbestos board. Do this slowly and try to make as little mess as possible. There is no need to start smashing the board to pieces or using tools like a hammer otherwise you will needlessly disturb the fibres. (Its important to never use power tools on any potentially asbestos containing material).

Step 4 – Store in the sample bags and label for testing

With the sample obtained, place them it in the provided sample bags (make sure samples from different locations are kept in separate bags).

Remember each sample should be double bagged.

Now you can complete the labels on the sample bags. Don’t overlook or rush this part as it’s vital for the testing labs to give you accurate results and identify the source of the asbestos properly. Labels include a unique sample reference, the date taken, and a description of the location the sample was obtained from.

Step 5 – Check the area for dust and debris

With the samples bagged, it’s important to assess the area for any debris or dust. Hopefully, you have removed the sample carefully and there should be virtually no mess.

Regardless, it is advised to use the antibacterial wipes provided to wipe the board where you took the sample from, and any surrounding surfaces. This dampens any dust and will prevent it from spreading. You can also use the water in your spray bottle to spray on any dust before wiping.

Step 6 – Dispose of your PPE correctly    

Lastly, your PPE must be disposed of properly in the provided asbestos waste bags. First, use the remaining antibacterial wipes to wipe your coveralls and gear which dampens it like you did with the asbestos board. You can them take them off and place them in the red waste bag.

This bag must then be placed inside the clear waste bag. Any wipes should be disposed of too in the same way, and you must wipe and clean the tool you used to break off the asbestos board. 

Safety Advice for Taking Board Samples 

  • The board sample only has to be roughly the size of a 50p coin so there is no need to go over-the-top and break off huge chunks of the asbestos board.
  • Make sure that each sample is kept separate and you make a clear note of their location as this helps during testing, and the removal process afterwards by specialists.
  • Ensure each sample is double bagged (placed into the inner bag, then sealed - now place that bag into the outer bag and seal again)
  • Always saturate the ACM with water to prevent dust when breaking
  • Always ensure you're wearing the appropriate PPE & FFP3 Respirator.


[1] – HSE – Sampling Asbestos Materials

[2] – HSE – Duty to Manage Asbestos

The content on this page/article was last updated on the 6th December 2023 by our team and was reviewed and fact checked by William Wright, DipNEBOSH on the 6th December 2023.

William is a qualified health & safety consultant who holds NEBOSH & IOSH certifications.