Identification of Asbestos in Bulk Samples by PLM P401

Asbestos bulk analysis plays a key role helping to identify asbestos in materials, to allow asbestos in buildings to be effectively detected and managed in line with the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012, Regulation 4. P401 – Identification of Asbestos in Bulk Samples by PLM gives analysts the knowledge and skills required to safely analyse bulk samples containing asbestos, identifying the specific asbestos component(s) as required in CAR 2012, Regulation 5.  

The requirement to be formally trained in asbestos analysis work is outlined in HSG248 Asbestos: The Analysts' Guide (2nd edition, July 2021), which states that any workers who are liable to be exposed to asbestos should be sufficiently trained in their area of asbestos work, to ensure they are not put at risk when working with asbestos. CAR 2012, Regulation 21 also states that all persons who analyse materials must be proven competent within an ISO/IEC 17025 laboratory, and this qualification is a step towards proving competence. 

Who is it for?

The qualification is suitable for anyone who is:  

  • Required to analyse bulk asbestos samples as part of their work 
  • Considering a career in asbestos analysis  
  • Responsible for managing asbestos laboratory analysts 


The level of a qualification indicates the relative complexity and depth of knowledge and skills required to attain the qualification.  

This is a level 4 qualification in the BOHS qualifications frameworkequivalent to NVQ Level 4 (HNC). 

How is it delivered?

The P401 course will require at least 18 hours of study time, of which 14 hours will be taught (teaching and practical assessment) and 4 hours will be independent (in your own time). In addition there will be 5.5 hours of examination time.

Content / Learning outcomes

Overall aim

To provide you with the theoretical knowledge and practical ability to undertake safe sample handling methods and the analysis of bulk samples for the presence of asbestos using the polarised light microscopy (PLM) method.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, you will be able to demonstrate the correct method for:

  • Preparing and pre-treating samples of bulk material
  • Extracting fibres and mounting in appropriate refractive index Cargille liquids
  • Setting up the polarised light microscope and required quality checks
  • Analysing samples and  providing results on the asbestos fibres present


  1. Asbestos fibre types and asbestos containing materials
  2. Sample preparation and preliminary assessment
  3. Setting up of the polarised light microscope and analysis of samples
  4. Certificates and reporting results
  5. Quality control


You must pass three parts within 12 months:  

  • Practical assessment 
  • Written examination
  • Practical examination 


BOHS provides: 

  • Further information including the course syllabus, practical assessment guidance/supporting documents and written examination guidance with sample exam questions can be found under the ‘Downloadable Resources’ information box above.
  • BOHS Online Exam information and FAQs - Click here 

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