Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that has been widely used in building construction and various industries for its desirable properties, including fire resistance, durability, and insulation. It was commonly found in building materials, including insulation, flooring, ceiling tiles, cement products, and more. Asbestos has been used for over 4500 years. Its use became more widespread during the industrial revolution and continued well into the 20th century… so there’s a lot of it still about.
All types of asbestos can be hazardous if disturbed and allowed to release fibres into the air. However, some types are more dangerous and have been associated severe with health risks. The most common types of asbestos include chrysotile, amosite, and crocidolite.
Chrysotile (white asbestos)
The most common type of asbestos was extensively used in various building products. It has long, curly fibres.
Amosite (brown asbestos)
This type has straight, brittle fibres and was commonly used in insulation materials.
Crocidolite (blue asbestos)
With its very thin, needle-like fibres this asbestos is considered the most hazardous. It was used in applications such as insulation and spray-on coatings.
Tremolite, anthophyllite, and actinolite
These types are less common and typically found as contaminants in other minerals or products.
Asbestos is associated with significant health risks when its fibres are released into the air and inhaled. Prolonged exposure to asbestos can lead to serious respiratory diseases, including lung cancer, mesothelioma (a rare and aggressive cancer affecting the lining of the lungs or abdomen), and asbestosis (a chronic lung condition). Due to its hazardous nature, asbestos has been banned or strictly regulated in many countries, including the UK and the United States.
If you’re a homeowner and suspect the presence of asbestos in your property, you must act swiftly. It’s important to consult with a qualified asbestos professional or an asbestos abatement contractor who can assess the situation accurately. They will conduct an inspection and take samples for testing in a laboratory to confirm the presence of asbestos. If you are site manager on a UK refurbishment project, you must apply your Asbestos Awareness training with immediate effect and keep your colleagues safe.
Duty to manage asbestos
In the UK, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 places a duty on owners and occupiers of non-domestic properties to manage the risks associated with asbestos. This includes identifying the presence of asbestos and implementing appropriate control measures.
As part of the duty to manage asbestos, it is essential to conduct an asbestos survey. There are two types of surveys: a management survey (standard survey) and a refurbishment/demolition survey (more intrusive). A qualified asbestos surveyor can advise on the most appropriate survey for your property. The professionals will take samples of the suspected materials (such as insulation, tiles, or roofing) and send them to a certified laboratory for analysis. They will provide you with a report detailing the presence and type of asbestos, if any.
If asbestos is confirmed, the professionals will help develop an appropriate management plan based on the condition and location of the asbestos-containing materials. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove or encapsulate the asbestos, while in other cases, it may be safer to leave it undisturbed and monitor its condition regularly.
When it comes to asbestos removal, you should hire a licensed asbestos removal contractor. In the UK, all asbestos removal work must be carried out by a contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Ensure that the contractor provides a valid license and follows the necessary safety guidelines. They will follow specific guidelines and safety procedures to minimise the risk of fibre release. Asbestos removal should never be attempted as a DIY project due to the associated health hazards. Please consult the HSE site for training courses and detailed advice on what to do next.
Asbestos waste disposal
Asbestos waste is considered hazardous and must be disposed of properly. In the UK, you cannot dispose of asbestos waste in your regular household waste. Contact your local authority or a licensed waste disposal facility to arrange for the safe disposal of asbestos-containing materials.
Asbestos exposure can lead to serious health risks, such as mesothelioma and asbestosis. If you suspect past exposure or have concerns about your health, consult your doctor and inform them about any potential asbestos exposure history.
If removal is necessary, it’s crucial to hire a licensed asbestos abatement contractor to perform the work. They will follow specific guidelines and safety procedures to minimise the risk of fibre release. Never take risks with asbestos.
Remember, if you discover asbestos, it is essential to consult quickly with professionals who have the necessary expertise and qualifications in asbestos testing, management, and removal. They will ensure that the necessary precautions are taken to protect your health and the environment.
The management team at Owens Construction Consultancy has encountered asbestos on several previous projects and we are well versed in next steps. If our professional knowledge and expertise is useful for your next development, we’d be happy to assist, please give us a call for a no obligation chat at any time.