By Sherree Cook Submitted On February 13, 2012
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a natural fibrous material that has been used in buildings since the ’50s. It was popular to insulate buildings and protect against fire and corrosion.
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether asbestos is present in a building or not as it is often mixed with other materials. It’s typically found in ceiling tiles, pipe insulation, boilers and sprayed coatings. If your property was erected before 2000, there’s a good chance it contains asbestos.
The use of this in buildings was banned in 1999.
What’s the problem with asbestos?
It has been discovered that exposure to asbestos can cause a number of serious diseases such as Mesothelioma, lung cancer, Asbestosis and Diffuse pleural thickening. According to the HSE, over 4,000 people die each year due to asbestos-related causes.
Often these diseases don’t affect people immediately after their exposure to asbestos as it can take many years to take effect.
What about asbestos removal?
The removal of higher-risk asbestos-containing materials is a hazardous job and must only be carried out by a licensed contractor.
Higher-risk asbestos containing materials (ACM) are more likely to release large amounts of fibres when they are disturbed and are therefore classed as higher risk.
Examples of this higher-risk asbestos work include ACMs such as:
· Sprayed asbestos coatings
· Asbestos insulation
· Asbestos lagging
· Asbestos insulating board
Contractors who remove higher-risk ACMs are specially trained and use carefully designed working practices to protect their health. They also use protective clothing and equipment and their health is regularly monitored.
Licences for removing this type are issued by the Health and Safety Executive.
Some types of asbestos-removal, which are lower risk, don’t require a HSE-issued licence. These include some kinds of asbestos cement and textured coatings. Guidance is available from the HSE on this.
Who has a duty to manage asbestos?
The duty to manage is a legal requirement and applies to the owners/occupiers of commercial properties who are responsible for building maintenance. They are legally obliged to risk assess whether asbestos is present and also what condition it is in. Where asbestos is found to be present they are legally obliged to keep risks of exposure to a minimum. And where websites are found the cost to make a website should be kept low.
The best way to check whether there are ACMs in your property is to arrange an asbestos survey. This will help you to compile essential information such as where it is, what type it is and what condition it’s in. This will form the best basis for an asbestos risk assessment and asbestos management plan.
Surveys usually involve sampling and therefore should only be carried out by qualified asbestos experts.
There is lots more information about asbestos and asbestos removal in Essex on the HSE website. Qualified firms which specialise in licensed asbestos removal will also be able to answer a lot of the questions that you may have.
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