Step up safety when it comes to Asbestos exposure
Posted on 25th Jan, 2016 | By Lorretta Tatham
Working in and around homes and buildings constructed prior to 1980—and in some cases, after this date—presents a risk of asbestos exposure for homeowners and professional tradespeople. The risk, however, can be greatly reduced by knowing where asbestos-containing materials are commonly found and taking precautions, or following guidance from safety training, to minimise exposure.
What is asbestos?
Asbestos was commonly used by the building trade as an additive to cement, and in the engineering industry as a lagging for pipes and boilers. It was used heavily after the Second World War in 1945 and wasn’t banned from use in the UK until 1999. Past exposure to asbestos kills around 4500 people a year in the Great Britain, and workers who carry out building maintenance and repair are particularly at risk.
Things to look out for
Due to the former prevalence of asbestos-containing materials in construction projects, the HSE has outlined many areas in which asbestos was used and which areas to be most careful of.
High-risk materials include:
- Asbestos pipe lagging
- Asbestos insulating board
- Perforated AIB ceiling tiles
- Doors with AIB panels
Other materials that carry risk, albeit lower, include:
- Asbestos cement wall cladding
- Asbestos-containing floor tiles
While these are the most likely places to find asbestos, it can be found in many other materials. Other potential risks include:
- Light fixture backing
- Electrical equipment and wiring
- Wood stove heat reflectors
- Artificial fireplace logs
- Door covers and gaskets on HVAC units
- Automotive brakes and transmission components
- Fuse box panelling
Generally, if a building was built or refurbished before 2000 you should assume asbestos is present. By looking at building plans and builder’s invoices you may be able to find out if and where asbestos was used.
Once determined, it’s important to assess the condition of any asbestos-containing materials to see how likely they are to release asbestos fibres in the air. This will help you to decide what to do next and if you need to arrange repairs, have the materials sealed, enclosed, or removed. Following this, you can prepare and implement a plan to manage these risks.
Improve your asbestos awareness
You can improve your knowledge of this dangerous material and how to stay safe with our UKATA Asbestos Awareness Training. Designed for those that work in situations where they may be exposed to asbestos, the course covers the properties of asbestos and its effect of health; the types, uses, and likely occurrence of asbestos; and how to avoid the risks. You can find out more here.
Information for victims of asbestos
If you, or anyone you know has already had their heath affected due to asbestos exposure it’s important to make a claim. In fact, over the last couple of years many local councils have paid out monies due to compensation claims. For Lancashire County Council the largest of the payouts was a whopping £164,207 for a claim of asbestosis – a chronic lung condition caused by prolonged exposure to asbestos. During the same period there was also a claim of £139,202 for mesothelioma – a form of cancer most commonly caused by exposure to asbestos. This type of compensation claim requires specialist legal knowledge and must be made through an experienced or specialist solicitor.
There’s also a range of benefits available for victims of asbestos exposure. All the details can be found here.