Asbestos is a silent killer – its tiny fibres can get into the lungs and cause damage that only becomes fully apparent many years later, leading to breathing difficulties that can severely hamper your quality of life, and ultimately lead to an early death.
It has been one of the HSE’s primary topic areas for many years already, along with other major killers like falls from height, and it should not be trifled with, nor underestimated in terms of its potential impact.
Asbestos is deadly. It’s as simple as that, and when it comes to removing asbestos from a building or any other premises or structure, it’s essential that you know how to proceed.
What to do if you find asbestos
First of all, you need to know if you have asbestos on your premises, and that means checking for high-risk materials like lagging and insulation, AIB (asbestos insulating board) and sprayed asbestos coatings – obviously newer buildings are less likely to have any of these materials, but in older structures there’s a good chance of finding at least some asbestos, especially in insulating materials.
There may also be substances like asbestos cement, and this should be handled carefully too, but it is the high-risk materials, which contain a larger amount of loose fibres that may be inhaled, which should only be disposed of by a licensed contractor.
Licensed removal specialists undergo training especially dedicated to high-risk asbestos materials, using methods that are also designed specifically to protect against the unique risks of asbestos fibres, from containing the released fibres and cleaning up afterwards, to protecting the lungs of the workers carrying out the job itself.
Respiratory equipment is used to prevent any loose fibres from being inhaled; it should be worn by all workers present on the job site, and any employees without protection, or members of the public, should not be allowed into the affected area until it has been properly cleaned up.
Even among low-risk asbestos removal, there is a category of ‘notifiable non-licensed work’ which calls for employers to carry out regular medical checks on their staff, and designate the areas where asbestos is being removed from.
If you are worried that you have been exposed to asbestos in a residence, commercial building or industrial setting, the duration of exposure is important – most short-term or one-off exposures should have few, if any, long-term health implications.
The risks escalate the longer you are exposed, and the higher the quantity of asbestos fibres in the atmosphere, which is why the health consequences are typically more severe for people who have worked around asbestos without protection for much of their career.
Once asbestos-containing materials have been removed, they must be disposed of very carefully, as they may still release fibres into the air during subsequent storage and transport.
The rags and other materials used to clean the area should usually be disposed of too, and even the tools used may need to be destroyed if they cannot be adequately cleaned.
Everything should be double wrapped and clearly labelled as hazardous, and larger sections of cement board, for instance, should be wrapped intact rather than being unnecessarily broken down.
As mentioned above, it is essential to keep everything completely wrapped and sealed during transportation to a suitable disposal site – the local council can advise on where to take these materials so that they can finally be disposed of once and for all.
If you need help with asbestos removal, contact us today to see if we can help.