As a project owner or contractor in the public or private sector, you might need to check for asbestos before starting work on natural terrain or rocks. BRGM is an expert in environmental asbestos, able to provide support at all stages – from diagnostics through to risk management.

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    Detecting asbestos before starting work on natural terrain (northern Corsica)

    Detecting asbestos before starting work on natural terrain (northern Corsica)

    © Didier Lahondère

    Issues and needs

    Article 113 of Act No. 2016-1088 of France's Labour Code requires an asbestos survey prior to certain operations. Decree No. 2017-899 on the need to conduct asbestos surveys before certain operations indicates the terms of application or exemption set out in Article L. 4412-2 of the Labour Code, depending on the scope and nature of the work envisaged, based on technical methods that are appropriate for the field of activity concerned.

    In view of the specific challenges of asbestos detection in the natural environment, the work will require the participation of geologists with proven expertise in the characterisation of rocks and soil, as set out in standard NF P 94-001: Detecting environmental asbestos – Geological study of soil and rocks – Mission and methodology).

    This indicates the complexity of the necessary studies, which will involve characterising terrain made up of a variety of rocks, often metamorphic and deformed, and of soil with variable stability.

    In addition to these legislative aspects, the asbestos surveys carried out prior to starting work also address the operational needs of development projects They provide a guarantee for the health of workers and local residents, while making it easier to oversee scheduling and manage the budget set aside for operations.

    System for detecting layers of serpentinite

    System for detecting layers of serpentinite, an asbestos-bearing rock (New Caledonia, 2012). 

    © BRGM - Jean-Christophe Gourry 

    Our added value

    As the French geological survey and reference body for environmental asbestos, BRGM has the expertise and know-how to detect asbestos before work is started. Carried out by skilled geologists (levels 5 and 7 of the national qualifications framework depending on the level of the assignment), the studies comply with the methods and requirements set out in technical and managerial standards (certification NF P 94-001 and ISO 9001). BRGM geologists undertake their assignments in one or more successive stages depending on the project:

    Stage A0: Identify and consult existing data in order to:

    • establish the sensitivity of the area to be checked, in particular by viewing geological maps and other relevant documents on different scales showing the possible presence of asbestos;
    • provide a stage report on the presence of geological objects likely to contain (A1) or containing (A2) asbestos on the site studied.

    Stage A1: Conduct a preliminary geological survey and expert appraisal of the area studied:

    • inspect and characterise accessible outcrops;
    • identify geological objects containing or likely to contain asbestos;
    • draw up a detailed geological map of the site;
    • define and implement the sampling strategy;
    • carry out analyses, in compliance with regulatory requirements (Ministerial Order of 1 October 2019);
    • provide a concluding report on the absence or proven presence of geological objects containing asbestos.

    Stage A2: Conduct further investigations to establish the presence or absence of asbestos

    • Substantiate the diagnosis made on the presence or absence of asbestos if suspicions remain on completion of the previous step.
    • Conduct advanced morphological and physico-chemical characterisation, based on a wide range of techniques and tools tailored to the problems posed (e.g. cleavage fragments: false positives).

    BRGM's training centre organises training courses on asbestos, which can be tailored to needs, particularly as concerns training for those administering the asbestos surveys required before starting work (appointed by the DGT labour inspectorate).

    Training courses

    BRGM Formation, BRGM's training branch, provides training courses on the subject of asbestos, which can be tailored to trainers' needs, notably to address the Detection of Environmental Asbestos before Works (Repérage d'Amiante avant Travaux - RAT)

    Further to BRGM's requests for information about the status of the current laws in force concerning the detection of environmental asbestos present in soils and rocks, before any human interventions or activities, the French Directorate General for Labour (DGT) has provided certain clarifications.

    Actinolite fibres, a quarry material that may contain asbestos fibres.

    Actinolite fibres, a quarry material that may contain asbestos fibres.

    © BRGM - Jéromine Duron

    Tools and platforms

    • InfoTerre: portal giving access to BRGM data relating to asbestos in particular
    • Laboratories for the preparation and physico-chemical characterisation of rock materials (PLOM, SEM-Raman, etc.)


    • Roadways in Poroja, northern Corsica: detection of asbestos in the natural environment
    • Asbestos-bearing rocks and soils identified in the municipality of Corte as part of a project to renovate the local drinking water supply network (RP-66896-FR; RP-68132-FR; RP-68931-FR)

    Scientific publications

    • Lahondère et al., 2021. Caractérisation des matériaux rocheux des éboulis du versant de la tête amont du tunnel des Commères (RD 1091 - Commune de Mont-de-Lans). Submitted for publication
    • Lahondère et al., 2021. Do these rocks contain asbestos or not? The Ersa-Centuri case study (northern Corsica, France). Submitted for publication
    Tremolite-asbestos bundle with a frayed end, New Caledonia

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