Health and Safety Issues for Asbestos
Look round any property that was built prior to 2000 and you will undoubtedly find building materials that contain asbestos. Left in their undisturbed state and when there is no degradation of the material, these areas are perfectly safe. It is only when damage occurs or you carry out invasive building work that you need to worry at all.
In short, if the area with asbestos is left undisturbed there is no urgency to have it removed.
Obviously, one of the industry types that are most exposed to asbestos are builders and construction workers. Often there is no way to tell if asbestos is present in an area where you are working, particularly in domestic properties. Commercial premises should have a plan for dealing with asbestos in the property which you can refer to but this depend on the duty holder having fulfilled their responsibilities according to legislation relating to asbestos identification.
Working with Asbestos Materials
If asbestos has been correctly identified, there are a number of precautions that should be taken. The problem with asbestos is that when it is damaged it produces dust or fibres that can easily be breathed in. These are highly dangerous, particularly if you have long term exposure.
- You can reduce the amount of dust created by wetting the surface that you are working on. The Health and Safety Executive recommend a mixture of 5 parts water and 1 part washing up liquid.
- Those working on and in close proximity to materials containing asbestos should wear an FFP3 face mask and Type 5 disposable overalls.
- Another important aspect when working with asbestos is that you clean up waste once you have finished and use a damp cloth to wipe down tools and surfaces as you go along.
- All waste materials, including your mask and protective suit, should be disposed of in a bag labelled as asbestos waste.
Licensed and Non-Licensed Work
There are some asbestos materials that you can work on and are considered low risk. As long as you use the above precautions you can undertake this non-licensed kind of work. If the material is higher risk, then you need to get a licensed asbestos removal and disposal company in. This type of high risk material includes:
- Loose fill insulation that contains asbestos.
- Limpet or asbestos coated ceilings (often found in kitchens).
- Asbestos pipe insulation and lagging.
- AIB or asbestos insulating board.
Licenses for working with asbestos are given by the Asbestos Licensing Unit who also set the national standards for dealing with this material. They monitor those companies or individuals who have a license and have the power to revoke it if standards are not being met.
Carrying Out a Risk Assessment
Before any work is carried out either on a commercial premises or domestic home where asbestos may be present, a risk assessment should be carried out. This includes:
- Finding out what the risk is and who may be affected.
- Highlight the action that will reduce the risk (for instance, wearing protective gear) and how this will be implemented.
- Make a record of the risk assessment and action to be taken – informing employees or residents where appropriate.
- Implement the action and review the update.
Obviously, the person undertaking the risk assessment needs to be competent to do so. If you are a non-domestic property, it pays to get a licensed asbestos service in that knows what to look for and what measures to put into place.
Find out more about licensed asbestos removal services in your area.