Here at Armco Asbestos Consultants, we are often asked questions relating to asbestos. So we’ve put this page together and compiled a list of our most frequently asked questions for you:-
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural fibrous rock that can be found naturally in soil and rocks and can be categorised into 3 different types – Crocidolite (blue asbestos), Amosite (brown asbestos), and Chrysotile (white asbestos).
Due to it’s wide availability and affordability, it was used a lot in the construction of homes and buildings, as far back as ancient times and right up until 1999.
Asbestos was also so commonly used because of it’s strength, excellent insulation and fire retardant properties. It can be found in pipe insulation, old boilers, insulation panels in old storage heaters, floor tiles, eaves, gutters, ceilings, doors, garage and shed roofs, rainwater pipes and other products used around the home as well as commercial/public buildings such as hospitals and schools.
Chrysotile is the most common form of asbestos used in industry.
Is asbestos dangerous?
The short answer is, yes!!! Asbestos has been linked to cancer after extensive research and studies by medical scientists. Once the asbestos fibers are released into the atmosphere after being damaged or disturbed, they can be inhaled via the nose and throat, and the fibers attach themselves to the airway and lungs, meaning that over time the fibers irritate the cells in the lungs and cause cancer, inparticular mesothelioma.
Children are more likely to contract mesothelioma than adults, as the younger a person is, the more susceptible they are to the asbestos fibers. Mesothelioma is a fatal disease and is directly caused by asbestos exposure.
Exposure to asbestos can also cause asbestosis, a chronic respiratory disease. The lungs can become scarred due to inhalation of the asbestos fibers. Symptoms of asbestosis include difficulty in breathing and a rattling sound in the lungs. It’s a fatal disease with no effective treatment currently available.
The most common disease as a result of exposure to asbestos is lung cancer, and contributes to the most deaths. Smokers who have worked and been exposed to asbestos are at greater risk of developing lung cancer than those people who have just been exposed to asbestos itself.
The more you are exposed to asbestos, the higher the risks. It can take many years for any symptoms to develop following exposure.
What should I do if I think I have asbestos in my home?
If your home was built before the year 2000 then it’s very possible that it could contain asbestos materials, but there is no need to do anything as asbestos is harmless until is it damaged or disturbed. This will only happen as a result of certain DIY jobs, renovation or demolition.
Under these circumstances, if you plan to carry out any such works, it is essential that you take the necessary precautions and seek professional advice.
An asbestos surveyor will need to come to your home to conduct an asbestos survey and possibly take samples of the materials.
These samples are then sent to a specialist laboratory where they are tested for asbestos fibers. The scientists will also be able to determine what type of asbestos it is.
Depending on the findings, you may need to employ a licensed asbestos removal contractor to safely remove and dispose of the asbestos from the property.
Some asbestos containing materials can be repaired and protected from any further damage, but this would have to be done by a trained individual.
You may also have to have an asbestos survey conducted if you have just purchased a property that was built before the year 2000.
What if I work in a building that contains asbestos?
Again, as asbestos can only cause harm once the asbestos containing material has become damaged and airbourne, you are not at harm if you work in any building that was built using asbestos, so long as it remains undisturbed and in good condition.
However, the building managers will have a duty to manage the asbestos that is present in the building and must adhere to a plan of action in order to manage any identifyable risks.
Just like in domestic properties, if the asbestos containing materials become damaged or disturbed in any way then repair work or removal will need to be undertaken by professionals.
What is an asbestos survey and what does it involve?
An asbestos survey is carried out by a professional, qualified asbestos surveyor and can be done on any domestic or commercial property. The asbestos surveyor will be able to locate and identify any asbestos containing materials.
Enough information will be collated so as to enable the formation of an asbestos register, management plan and risk assessment.
Part of the asbestos survey will involve the taking of samples to be analysed for the presence of asbestos.
Although it isn’t a legal requirement, it is highly recommended that arrangements are put in place to have an asbestos survey carried out on your premises if you suspect there to be asbestos containing materials.
After the survey has taken place, the asbestos surveyor will issue a report detailing all of his findings and recommendations.
What do I need to do if asbestos is found in my property/premises?
If you have had a professional asbestos survey carried out and testing has been done where the results indicate the presence of asbestos, or there is asbestos presumed, then depending on what type of asbestos is found and the condition that it’s in, there are a few options.
Remember, asbestos is only dangerous if it is damaged or disturbed, so providing you are not due to carry out any renovation works to the property you are safe to leave it as is, but you will need to closely monitor on a regular basis.
However, If it’s a commercial property with employees then you will need to put a management plan in place and create an asbestos risk register (see question below).
If the area is likely to be damaged or disturbed at some point in the future through building/renovation works, then the best option will be to have the asbestos removed by a licensed asbestos removal contractor.
How do I find a licensed asbestos removal contractor?
We are happy to personally recommend a reputable licensed asbestos removal contractor for you, or you can find a list of approved contractors and their addresses, along with full licence details on the HSE website.
You can also directly contact any company and ask to see a copy of their licence.
What is the asbestos risk register?
An asbestos risk register forms an important part of the asbestos management plan which details any asbestos findings within your premises (or suspected/presumed asbestos).
The asbestos risk register needs to be updated annually which will include carrying out of regular inspections, and adding or deleting information on the register as and when new areas containing asbestos are discovered, new surveys are carried out or asbestos removal is undertaken.
The register can be either in electronic or paper form, just as long as a record is kept and updated as well as made readily available to everyone, including tradesmen and contractors who may carry out any works on the building.
If I work with asbestos, should my employer provide protective clothing (PPE)?
Most definitely yes! Your employer has a duty to keep you safe, so if you are going to be working with asbestos then they need to provide you with full PPE (personal protective clothing) and equipment.
It will be up to employers to arrange this for their employees, as they have a legal responsibility to ensure their workforce receives the correct and appropriate training.
You will receive a certificate from your training provider as proof of having had asbestos training, although this is not actually a legal requirement to hold a certificate.
You will still need to ensure that a risk assessment is carried out though before carrying out any asbestos work.
Do I require an asbestos licence?
You will need an asbestos licence if you are going to be working with particular higher risk asbestos containing materials on a regular basis, for example asbestos insulation and sprayed coatings.
Licenses are issued by the HSE and will last for between one and three years before needing renewing. HSE will closely monitor those who they issue licences to.
If you are not sure whether you will require an asbestos licence or not, you can visit the HSE website for more information.
What should I do with asbestos waste?
Asbestos waste, whether it be from domestic or non-domestic premises should be disposed of properly, and not just fly tipped as it’s a danger to public health! Products or materials containing asbestos fibers are classed as hazardous waste and therefore must be disposed of at a licensed disposal site. This includes any items such as PPE and tools that have been contaminated with asbestos fibers.
The items have to be packaged correctly before they are taken to a disposal site. It is recommended that asbestos should be double wrapped in specialist plastic bags and labelled, ideally with asbestos warning labels.
Larger items such as insulation board must be wrapped as one piece in heavy duty polythene sheeting before being labelled.
After packaging, the asbestos waste must also be taken to the disposal site in suitable containers. This will further prevent any asbestos fibers becoming loose and escaping into the atmosphere.
If you are unsure where your local asbestos disposal site is located then you can contact your local council offices to find out.
Do you have any more questions about asbestos that we haven’t answered in our ‘Frequently asked Questions’ section above? Then feel free to get in touch and ask us anything you like. You can fill in our contact form to the right of this page or give us a call on 0161 763 3727.
Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their building so as not to put employees at risk. Contact our Armco office for asbestos management and refurbishment/ demolition surveys on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting http://www.armco.org.uk/.