16th September, 2021

What Is Asbestos AIB?

AIB stands for Asbestos Insulating Board. But what is asbestos insulating board? Is it dangerous? And where do you find it? Asbestos insulating board was used for insulating against fire, heat, and sound. So you will often find it in walls, ceilings, fire doors and partitions.

What Is Asbestos AIB? header image

Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) was a popular building material before asbestos got banned in the UK. But just because AIB (and asbestos) is banned now, doesn't mean you don't need to worry about it. Asbestos was used heavily in the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, AIB was used up until 2000. So it is often found in buildings built or refurbished in that timeframe.

Asbestos has good insulating properties against fire, heat, and sound. AIB panels could be used in a variety of use cases to make use of these properties. Like stopping sound travelling between rooms or floors, keeping the heat in, or creating a fire barrier. So you will often find it in walls, ceilings, fire doors and partitions.

AIB will usually contain amosite (brown) asbestos and/or chrysotile (white) asbestos. It's not pure asbestos, but it has asbestos fibres mixed in with other materials to create the board or panel.

Do you know about blue, white and brown asbestos? Find out more about the different types and colours of asbestos.

Is AIB dangerous?

Yes, AIB is dangerous. AIB contains asbestos, and any type of asbestos product is a health hazard. Asbestos is one of constructions biggest killers. It can lead to a slow and painful death years after exposure.

AIB can contain a high quantity of asbestos - up to 45%! And it is often found in places where it can be easily disturbed, for example, in partition walls and ceiling tiles. It is easy to see how regular maintenance work might damage these boards. For example, if you were replacing a light fixture or installing a shelf.

Once an asbestos material is disturbed, deadly asbestos fibres are released. When inhaled, asbestos fibres can get stuck in your lungs, causing fatal lung diseases.

Asbestos fibres are tiny

Download the free asbestos awareness toolbox talk to let your team know about the dangers of asbestos.

According to the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA), the asbestos content of AIB is usually 20-45%. That's around double the asbestos content found in asbestos cement.

That high quantity of asbestos should ring alarm bells. Asbestos is so dangerous that it has its own set of regulations. And it's now banned from use. Thousands of people still die each year in the UK due to asbestos exposure. Because even though it was banned over 20 years ago, it remains present in many buildings.

Where do you find AIB?

Asbestos was a cheap and widely available building product. You can find asbestos insulating board (AIB) in a wide variety of places. In homes, offices, schools, hospitals and other types of buildings.

Some common places you can find AIB are:

AIB was a popular product in the past because of its insulating properties, so many buildings contain it. In buildings where AIB was used, it can often be found in multiple places.

What does AIB look like?

AIB are panels or boards. They don't look any different to other panels and boards used in construction. They might be painted, or hidden behind other materials, so they are not easy to spot.

Just because AIB can contain brown asbestos, doesn't mean it is brown in colour. The asbestos content doesn't affect the appearance of the panel. It will usually look just like any other panel used for a partition or ceiling.

AIB wall partition

The above partition wall was found to contain AIB during an asbestos survey. AIB was used in partition walls to provide sound and heat insulation, and fire protection.

AIB roof light panels

The uplift panels to this roof light are also AIB, closing the ceiling void.

AIB bulkhead

This bulkhead is protected and clad with AIB panels. It had also previously been drilled into to install cables, releasing deadly asbestos fibres.

Looking at the images above, you might think 'that looks like plasterboard!'. And indeed, it does. It's hard to tell AIB from other safe materials, just by looking at it.

It is difficult to tell the difference between asbestos insulating board items and non-asbestos materials.

How do you identify AIB?

So, if you can't tell which boards contain asbestos, how do you identify AIB? To know what you're dealing with, you need an asbestos survey.

Asbestos fibres are so small, you can't see them with your eyes. The only way to accurately know if a material contains asbestos is through analysis at a laboratory.

There are legal requirements to have an asbestos survey, and there are two types of survey:

A management asbestos survey is required during normal building occupation because if asbestos materials are in poor condition, they can release fibres. A refurbishment and demolition survey is required for construction work, so you can identify any asbestos materials that will need removal and avoid accidental disturbance.

You can find out more about the two types of asbestos surveys in our asbestos surveys blog post.

AIB is one of the most common types of asbestos-containing material (ACM) found on asbestos surveys. Make sure you carry out the necessary checks for disturbing materials in any building or structure.

What should you do about AIB?

If a survey does confirm AIB is present in your workplace, you might not need to do anything. Once you know it's there, you can avoid disturbing it. And, as long as it's in good condition and is left alone, it won't be a risk to your health.

But if you find asbestos on a construction project, or if it's in poor condition, or if you need to fix something or disturb the AIB material, then you will probably need a licensed contractor. Some very short duration work can be carried out without a license, but workers still need to be asbestos trained for non-licensed work.

Work on any type of asbestos can be dangerous. However, some short duration work (less than 1 hour for 1 person in a 7 day period, not to exceed 2 hours spent by all workers) for small or minor tasks on AIB can be carried out by non-licensed workers who are appropriately trained.

The most important thing to do is to manage asbestos. Keep it in good condition, protect it, or remove it safely. Don't ignore it. If it's in the way or in poor condition, you need to do something about it. The release of asbestos fibres might not make you ill today or tomorrow, but in a few years, the symptoms will be hard to ignore and impossible to reverse.

The asbestos insulating board lining the building was found to be in very poor condition with many panels having extensive damage. Enforcement notices were served requiring the risks to be controlled and the asbestos materials to be removed by a licenced contractor.

And in addition to the health damage, businesses that don't manage asbestos and AIB correctly can be at risk of massive fines, and even prison time for those involved.

Download the free asbestos surveys toolbox talk to raise awareness of the type of asbestos survey you need.

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This article was written by Emma at HASpod. Emma has over 10 years experience in health and safety and BSc (Hons) Construction Management. She is NEBOSH qualified and Tech IOSH.

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