Asbestos-related diseases account for around 6,500 deaths per year, the single biggest cause of work-related deaths in Great Britan. The number of people who die from asbestos exposure is greater than the number of people who die in road accidents.
Anyone who works on the fabric of a building is at risk of disturbing asbestos and due to asbestos usually being mixed with another material, its difficult to know if you are working with it. As a rule of thumb – If you work in a building built prior to the year 2000, its likely that parts of it will contain asbestos.
Asbestos is not a mineral in itself, it is a collective term given to a group of silicate materials whose crystals occur in fibrous form.
The 3 main types of Asbestos:
∙ Chrysotile (white asbestos) most commonly detected form
of asbestos, found in roofs, ceilings, walls and floors of homes.
∙ Amosite (brown asbestos) most commonly used in cement sheet, plumbing insulation, and electrical insulation.
∙ Crocidolite (blue asbestos) most commonly used in spray-on coatings, pipe insulation, plastics, cement products and the insulation of steam engines.
Friable refers to asbestos-containing materials that can be easily reduced to powder when dry. These materials are likely to release significant amounts of asbestos when disturbed, in turn posing greater health risks. Examples of friable asbestos-containing materials include:
∙ Sprayed coatings;
∙ Thermal lagging, such as pipe insulation;
∙ Low-density boards such as insulating board and ceiling tiles
Non-Friable or also referred to as “bonded asbestos” is firmly bound in the matrix of the material. These materials are unlikely to release considerable amounts of asbestos fibre if left undisturbed. Examples of bonded asbestos-containing materials include:
∙ Cement products used in walls, ceiling and roofs;
∙ Bitumens, mastics and plastics
Asbestos fibres can easily split into smaller, thinner fibres, eventually becoming microscopic in size, if these fibres become airborne they can pass undetected through the lungs defences where they will remain indefinitely. Once in the lungs, they are capable of causing a variety of diseases.
Asbestos can cause 4 times of lung disease –
∙ Mesothelioma (always fatal)
∙ Lung cancer (nearly always fatal)
∙ Asbestosis (often fatal)
∙ Pleural thickening ‘plaques’ (not fatal
Asbestos-related diseases can take up to 40 years to show, the risk of developing a disease is determined by the number of fibres inhaled (how much asbestos you have been exposed to) and how long you have been exposed to it.
Working with asbestos is very hazardous and should only be performed by suitably trained and experienced people, using the correct equipment.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) when working with asbestos –
PPE is mandatory when working with asbestos, the PPE that is required includes:
∙ Disposable overalls
∙ Disposable gloves
∙ Footwear, boots without laces are recommended as they are easier to clean
∙ Respiratory Protective Equipment (RPE), disposable respirator
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 is designed to protect workers and occupants of non-domestic premises from exposure to Asbestos Containing Materials by imposing a duty on owners and managers to:
∙ find out whether the premises contain asbestos, and, if so, where is it and what condition is it in. If in doubt, materials must be presumed to contain asbestos;
∙ assess the risk and make a plan to manage that risk and act on it.
∙ make the information about the location, condition and management of asbestos available to anyone working on the fabric of the building.
The buildings that are affected include:
∙ All non-domestic buildings, whatever the type of business
∙ The common areas of domestic buildings, e.g halls, stairwells, lift shafts, roof spaces.
∙ All other domestic properties are not directly affected by the duty to manage.
Checklist before starting work on anywhere built before the year 2000, check that:
∙ You are not working on asbestos-containing products.
∙ For domestic premises, you have been informed where asbestos can be found.
∙ For non-domestic premises, you have seen a register locating and reporting the condition of asbestos.
Working Safely –
Things to remember before working on the fabric of a building built before 2000:
∙ It won’t always be obvious where asbestos is located, there is still a great deal of asbestos in buildings in the UK.
∙ The thoroughness of previous asbestos removal activities cannot be guaranteed so asbestos may still be present.
∙ Never assume that all asbestos-containing materials will be labelled, there could be undiscovered asbestos in the buildings you work on.
If you are interested in an online training course on Asbestos Awareness, click the button below.