Asbestos awareness of the serious health risks of exposure and the breathing in of airborne fibres should always be urgent priority, not least, to be legally compliant with the ‘General Requirements’ of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006.
Even if there is doubt that asbestos is present, it must be assumed that there is a strong probability, especially on a commercial premises. According to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), around a half a million properties around the UK are still likely to contain asbestos material hidden within the fabric of the building and more than 1.8 million people are exposed to asbestos each year.
Being not licensed to dispose of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) did not prevent a building firm from removing asbestos material during a recent roof renovation at a hosiery factory in South Wales and simply leaving in skips, which caused a build-up of dust while factory employees were present.
Once asbestos fibres are released into the air, they are easily inhaled and become permanently lodged within the linings of the lungs, which almost always leads to asbestosis disease of the lungs or the incurable malignant mesothelioma cancer of the lung linings.
A long gestation period of up to 50 years can often mean that the first signs of mesothelioma or asbestosis symptoms appear at an advanced stage of the disease and life expectancy is little more than 4 to 12 months.
When a building contractor is employed to carry out renovation work, both the firm and the property owner must ensure a comprehensive survey must be carried out to detect the presence of hidden asbestos. If asbestos is found, owners are obliged to undertake a number of duties set out under the Regulations, to assess its’ condition and draw up plans for containment and safe removal.
Inspectors later found the skips contained blue sheeting they suspected to be asbestos containing material, and samples taken at the factory confirmed traces of asbestos. It is highly likely that the blue sheeting may have contained crocidolite, or blue asbestos, one of the most dangerous forms of asbestos banned from use by the 1985 UK Asbestos (Prohibition) Regulations.
However, the chrysotile white asbestos type used to make AIB ( Asbestos Insulating Board), wall and ceiling tiles, spray coatings, and cement products, was still being extensively used in the building industry right up until its import was banned in 1999.
If asbestos is found during a site survey, approved local authority or private asbestos removal contractors should always be contacted immediately to carry out a Risk Assessment and write a Method Statement.