Asbestos safety in the palm of your hand: the HSE web app

by Alex on January 13, 2015

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Asbestos is a health hazard that builders and other contractors have been dealing with for a very long time. Humans actually started using it over 4,000 years ago to strengthen ceramic pots, but its wide use began in the late 19th century when builders discovered that it served very well as insulation. After uncovering its very serious adverse health effects, however, we’ve been a bit more careful in its use.

Even though we’ve gotten a lot better about dealing with asbestos, builders and contractors still have a lot to learn. The proper procedure for dealing with building materials that contain asbestos vary widely depending on where the work is taking place, how long the work will last, the exact materials involved, and other factors. It’s hard to know which precautions to take and what the legal requirements are.

To help contractors who might be dealing with asbestos in their work, the HSE recently released a very useful web app that walks the user through the process of analysing the situation, determining which precautions need to be taken, and finding a licensed contractor if one is needed. Let’s take a look at how the app works.

After going to and clicking “Start,” you’ll be asked whether you’re working on a residential or a business premises, and whether you’re working inside or outside. After choosing the applicable options, you’ll select when the building was built—before 2000, after 2000, or “Don’t Know.” Once you’ve given the app a good idea where you’ll be working, you’ll see a list of places where you could encounter asbestos, like ceiling tile, meters and fuse boxes, and airing cupboards.


Selecting the material you’re working with will bring you to the next screen, where you’ll choose what you’re doing with that material. For example, after choosing “vinyl floor tiles,” we’re asked whether we’re drilling or removing the tiles. Choosing your activity will bring you to a how-to guide finely detailed instructions for the job that you’ve chosen.

The app contains 40 different how-to guides that will help you make sure that you’re taking the proper precautions for dealing with asbestos-containing materials on the job site, and will walk you through all of the questions you need to answer to figure out which guide to consult. And if the job is particularly hazardous, the app will tell you that you should hire a certified asbestos contractor, which it will help you find in your area.


In addition to the how-to guides and contractor locator, the app also has a number of real-world images of asbestos-containing materials that will help you learn to identify potentially hazardous situations. Gutters, floors, tiles, flues, roofs, meter cupboards, and more can contain asbestos, and the images in the app will show you what it looks like when it’s present.

While the HSE does not yet have a mobile version of the app, it is accessible on mobile phones and tablets, so you can plan your work from your office computer and consult the how-to guides while you’re out in the field. The app doesn’t contain absolutely everything you need to know about asbestos, but it will give you enough guidance to do your work safely in most cases. More information can be found on the HSE’s asbestos pages.

The HSE asbestos web app is a great way to make sure that you’re being as safe as possible when dealing with asbestos, but don’t forget that there are a lot of other risks out there—which is why the HANDSHQ app has information not only on asbestos, but on hundreds of other potential risks and methods that you need to take into account and document before your project starts. Check out our features page for more details!

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