Asbestos In Safes

How Ireland Became A Toxic Waste Dump For Asbestos In Uncertified Safes And Fire Cabinets

Asbestos was banned in the Republic of Ireland in 2000, a year after it was banned in the U.K. Since then it has been illegal to buy, use, or re-use asbestos products in Ireland. Under EU legislation, there is also a total ban on the “placing on the market” of asbestos and asbestos-containing products. Where the asbestos-free status of a pre-2000 safe, fire cabinet or vault cannot be established or is uncertain, its internal material should be presumed to contain asbestos.

Despite the legality regarding asbestos being quite clear, safe, fire cabinets and vaults that the Irish Safes Ratings Group (I.S.R.G.), the European Security Systems Association (E.S.S.A.), Chubb Safes Ireland and Certified Safes Ireland™ have notified are likely or certain to contain asbestos, are still being sold into Ireland’s unregulated safe and vault market on a daily basis.

Asbestos Is A Killer:
Chrysotile asbestos fibres, which in the case of safe and vault manufacturing are the main type of asbestos we are concerned with, are carcinogenic if inhaled. Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres that may result from the day to day opening and closing of a safe, vault or filing cabinet door, fitted with asbestos door seals can lead to serious asbestos-related diseases. Asbestos can also be particularly dangerous when incorporated as an anti-combustion filling material or cement within the body of a safe, fire cabinet or vault.


Any older safe, fire cabinet or vault is quite likely to have a lock-out event at some stage, due to its age. On many occasions, this requires the body, or door, to be drilled. There has been little to no awareness among safe technicians, locksmiths and their clients that in drilling a unit that contains asbestos cement, fibre board or filling, the resulting dust is highly carcinogenic and a potent danger to the health of clients and safe technicians alike, possibly leading to diseases such as asbestosis and cancers of the lungs and chest lining.

Why Ireland Has So Many Safes, Vaults And Fire Cabinets Containing Asbestos:
Asbestos was banned at different times across Europe over a period of roughly twenty years and Ireland was one of the last European countries to introduce such a ban. The staggered nature of European asbestos bans starting in Denmark in 1980 and ending with the U.K. in 1999 and the Republic of Ireland in 2000 had what can best be described as a funnelling effect for contaminated safes, fire cabinets and vaults, with Ireland, more or less, at the end of that funnel.


As the majority of the safe and vault industry in Europe was concerned with the consequences of this life-threatening issue and how best to address it, others saw a gold-plated opportunity. With costs associated with asbestos disposal and a lower level of general awareness across Europe when it came to the issue of asbestos in safes, fire cabinets and vaults, huge quantities of these contaminated products were exported for “recycling” from countries that had introduced asbestos bans to countries where bans had yet to be introduced.
In Ireland’s case, importation of contaminated safes, fire cabinets and vaults, via the U.K. has happened on an industrial scale. These units destined for homes, offices and financial institutions in every part of the country.

The “Perfect” Business Model:
The people and businesses in Ireland who have traded, and continue to trade, in uncertified legacy safes and vaults have had a fairly unique business model over the last twenty years. Not only has the core product had little buy-in cost apart from the occasional re-spray or new lock but if a safe is sent for disposal in Ireland, it is usually the case that the trader gets paid to remove the safe, fire cabinet or vault, by its previous owner. Most safes, fire cabinets and vaults sent for disposal in Ireland, whether from private owners, government or financial institutions end up back on the market being sold by safe supply businesses or through classified ad websites.

As there is usually no documentation related to a unit after removal from a site, a great many safes, fire cabinets and vaults which may contain asbestos or other carcinogens are also sold into the black economy. This is the ultimate low-cost business model that has allowed some prominent safe and vault businesses to undercut their law-abiding counterparts, building highly profitable businesses based on irresponsible and criminal behaviour.

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