Understanding Asbestos

asbestos

If you are working on an older property, it is likely to have an element of asbestos if it hasn’t already been removed. You or the homeowner may wish to leave it, or decide to remove it. Whatever you decide to do with it, it is always important not to disturb it, and leave handling any asbestos product to a licenced professional.

This blog aims to explore asbestos, What it is, when it can become a risk and how to remove it.

What is asbestos and why is it so dangerous?

From the 19th century, asbestos was concerned to be a wonder product, being used in everything from building materials to children’s toys. This was because it possessed many desirable properties such as being heat and fire resistant, it is stronger than steel, cannot biodegrade, cannot dissolve in water or evaporate.

There are different types of asbestos which can be distinguished by their colour. Brown asbestos, known as “amosite” is the strongest of these and most hazardous to health, with white asbestos known as “chrysotile” being the one most used in building materials, in particular roofing sheets and insulation.

Although chrysotile asbestos is still hazardous to health, it is only dangerous if it is inhaled. Often asbestos inhalation can go undetected as it has no smell or symptoms, with the damage only becoming apparent late in life. The affects of excess exposure to asbestos can include lung cancer, mesothelioma, as well as asbestosis.

What should I do if I suspect a property has asbestos?

If you suspect a property has asbestos in the roof, do not panic. Asbestos only becomes a risk if it is disturbed, broken, and becomes airborne. If you believe there is asbestos in a roof, and feel that it needs to be removed and replaced, make sure you get an approved licensed professional to remove the asbestos safely and dispose of it correctly.

How is asbestos removed?

Prior to removing asbestos, a professional would need to conduct a survey to assess where the asbestos is. Once the asbestos has been established, the professional would need to conducts a Risk Assessment and build a Management Plan in accordance with the guidelines of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for working with ACMs. If the asbestos is deemed as dangerous, a contractor licensed by the HSE would be required to remove the asbestos.

Depending on the nature of the premises the licensed contractor must then notify of the work at least 14 days prior to removal. This will be either the HSE or the Environment Agency of the Local Authority.

The licensed Contractor is then responsible for ensuring that they are wearing appropriate PPE to protect themselves from asbestos exposure, the area in which the asbestos is being removed is sealed to prevent exposure to others, and the asbestos is correctly bagged to ensure it is sealed and safe in asbestos waste sacks. The asbestos should be correctly labelled and safely deposited of at a specialist licensed asbestos disposal site.

Once removed, the area the asbestos was removed from should be thoroughly cleaned through, removing all asbestos to any surfaces. Once the clean is complete, it should be inspected by an independent UKAS accredited laboratory who will assess and carry out an air test to determine if the safety provisions can be removed and work continue once they are satisfied the area is asbestos-free.

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