Eton’s in-house laboratory for testing asbestos is always a hive of activity.

During an average month, our four, fully trained analysts (who each hold the British Occupational Hygiene Society P401 proficiency qualification) test around 2,500 individual samples.

These are samples either sent to our Darlington head office by our own asbestos surveyors across the UK, or by other surveying companies who do not have their own laboratory. The samples can come from various buildings, including schools, hospitals, commercial premises and even domestic properties.

When the samples arrive in protective bags, our team’s first job is dry them out, if necessary, using heat lamps enclosed in glass cabinets.

They are then handed to our analysts who, using state-of-the-art equipment, look for the six types of asbestos, namely Chrysolite, Amosite, Crocidolite, Actinolite, Tremolite and Anthophyllite.

Asbestos can be identified in bulk samples, soils, sediments and sludges and we can offer turnaround within 24 hours if required. Fully accredited by UKAS to ISO17025, we analyse samples and report rapidly and accurately in line with Health and Safety Executive national guidance.

Due to their specialist training, it’s possible for our analysts to identify asbestos during an initial visual inspection using high-powered microscopes, but further tests are also necessary. This involves taking a glass slide and adding a refractive index liquid. The sample is then added to the slide to determine exactly what type of asbestos, if any, is present.

Healthy and safety is of paramount importance during the sampling process, so the cabinets where the asbestos is tested each have HEPA filters which pull air into the filter and away from the person doing the analysis. When working with the microscope inside the cabinet, each analyst also ensures that their sleeves are rolled up so no fibres can get onto clothes. In the unlikely event of a power cut to the building whilst sampling is carried out, red plastic covers can be pulled down and sealed over each cabinet.

Everything is recorded using tablet computers and inputted into TEAMS, an electronic asbestos software system used by Eton. A report is then generated and sent to clients and customers. This information can then be used when planning any refurbishment or demolition work which will involve the disturbance of asbestos.

We are required to hold asbestos samples for six months after testing, so these are recorded and bagged and at the end of the six months they are either used for training purposes for new analysts or taken for disposal at a registered waste disposal facility.