Asbestos removal is a very serious and potentially dangerous task that must be carried out by a professional and competent individual. This action is governed in the UK by The Control of Asbestos Regulations Act 2012. These laws aim to protect employees from unnecessary exposure in the workplace and also legislates how we import, use and dispose of the material too.
In its simplest form, The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 stipulates the following:
- The use and import of products containing any amount of asbestos is illegal;
- Medium-high risk forms of asbestos must only be handled in the workplace by licensed contractors;
- Employees must be properly trained if they are likely to come into contact with asbestos;
- Businesses must record and manage any suspect materials present in their premises;
- Waste asbestos must be disposed of by licensed carriers.
The Rules and Regulations
If your premises has existing asbestos in place and it is in good condition, then in some cases it may not need to be removed. This is especially true if the materials are not likely to be damaged, although their condition must be frequently monitored and recorded to ensure complete safety. If you are a business owner then it is your duty to protect everyone within your premises, especially from asbestos exposure.
If you are planning on doing some building/maintenance work on your premises that may contain asbestos, then you must first identify where it is and assess its condition before you begin. All risks must be assessed and managed before continuing with the work. In the majority of cases, working with or around asbestos requires the assistance of a licensed contractor.
The actual control limit for this material is 0.1 asbestos fibres for every 1 cubic centimetre of air. This should not be considered as a ‘safe’ level though as exposure should be reduced as far below this limit as possible. Training is absolutely vital for anyone who may be liable to asbestos exposure within the workplace – including maintenance workers and anyone else who may come into contact with the material. What’s more, as of April this year, all employees carrying out non-licensed work with asbestos must be under frequent health surveillance by a qualified Doctor.
The Six Types of Asbestos
Chrysotile – The most common type of asbestos is often found in the ceilings, roofs, walls and floors of numerous homes and businesses. Chrysotile fibres are fine with high heat resistance, accounting for around 90% of all asbestos used in commercial applications.
Crocodilite – AKA ‘blue asbestos’ provides the most effective heat resistance of all types of asbestos. This material is deemed most dangerous type of asbestos; the fibres are so fine that they can be inhaled easily and get lodged in the lining of the lungs.
Tremolite – This material is considered to be a major health risk and can often be found as a contaminant in numerous asbestos-containing insulating products, roofing materials and plumbing materials.
Amosite – AKA ‘brown asbestos’ was mainly used in cement sheets and pipe insulation in times gone by. The needle-like fibres have high tensile strength and good heat resistance.
Actinolite – This type of asbestos has never been used for commercial reasons despite the fact it can sometimes be found as a contaminant in some asbestos products.
Anthophyllite – This is one of the rarest types of asbestos with very little history in terms of commercial use. Traces of anthophyllite may be evident in talc and related products like talcum powder.
The Health Risks
Dangerous exposure to asbestos is responsible for over 5000 fatalities every single year. Exposure can also cause serious illness, including:
- Mesothelioma – cancer in the lining of the lungs;
- Lung cancer;
- Asbestosis – scarring of the lungs;
- Diffuse pleural thickening – concerning the membrane surrounding the lungs which can restrict lung expansion.
Symptoms can take from 15 to 60 years to develop after initial exposure, so these diseases may not affect you immediately but may do later in life. Frequent occupational exposure overtime will increase the risk of these diseases developing in the future.
The removal of high-risk asbestos-containing materials should ALWAYS be carried out by a licensed contractor. Professionals that are employed to remove higher-risk asbestos products have been specifically trained to follow certain safe and regulated working practices. Due to the hazardous nature of the task at hand, a license to carry out this type of work must first be obtained from HSE.
On the other hand, there are some asbestos removal tasks that will not require a license due to lower risk levels. Exposure to some asbestos fibres will not present a significant risk, given that the right precautions are taken beforehand. Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, there are two types of ‘non-licensed’ work. One of which is referred to as ‘notifiable non-licensed’ work, which has additional responsibilities and requirements for employers.
In some cases, asbestos-containing materials need not be removed and can instead be over-clad; this is especially true when it comes to asbestos cement roof coverings. This is a cost effective approach with an aesthetically pleasing and watertight result. Leaving the exiting roof material in place eliminates the need for expensive removal actions, whilst the over-cladding exercise will also eliminate the risks associated with asbestos exposure. This course of action causes minimal disruption to business activities and also provides added insulation to the roof construction.
Complete Peace of Mind
By hiring a professional roofer or licensed contractor you can ensure you have complete peace of mind when it comes to asbestos removal or over-cladding. If you require some more information, the team here at Roofing Consultants Group will be more than happy to help. Contact us today for help, assistance or to retrieve a quote for your asbestos removal requirement.