Where is asbestos found?

asbestos roofing

Posted on 22nd Nov, 2019 | By Lorretta Tatham

Though asbestos has been banned as a building material for decades, it’s still a widespread and deadly problem all over the UK. In fact, asbestos kills over 5000 people a year – that’s more than the number of annual road casualties in Britain. However, it doesn’t kill instantly. When inhaled, asbestos can cause several ultimately fatal diseases and since the symptoms can take decades to show up after the first exposure, sadly it’s often too late by late to do anything. That makes preventing first exposure a key priority for employers and tradesmen.

The UK government banned asbestos in 1999, but that still leaves countless buildings constructed before that date, which means there are plenty of places that you or your employees could be exposed. For the tradesmen most at risk (like construction professionals, electricians and plumbers) the danger is more tangible in some places more than others. Here, we’ve created a quick guide to the risks.

Where are you most at risk of asbestos exposure?

Typically, you’re most at risk in buildings and structures built before 2000, as these pre-date the asbestos ban. Therefore, their construction is far more likely to have used asbestos as a building material. You can be at even greater risk if your work relates to the fabric of the building. Drilling, hammering and sawing are all examples of actions that could disturb asbestos fibres, increasing the potential for exposure. (This is part of the reason why so many tradesmen are amongst the professions who most frequently develop asbestos-related illnesses.)

asbestos fibres

Certain interior materials and internal structures within these buildings can be particularly dangerous to work with, especially if they’re years or decades old. In some of them, asbestos may even have been used as one of their primary materials.

For this reason, you should take particular care when dealing with:

  • Loose fill insulation
  • AIB ceiling tiles (asbestos insulating board)
  • AIB partition walls (asbestos insulating board)
  • AIB panels in fire doors (asbestos insulating board)
  • AIB around boilers (asbestos insulating board)
  • Asbestos rope seals, gaskets and paper
  • Asbestos cement roof
  • Asbestos cement panels
  • Asbestos cement gutters and downpipes
  • Soffits – AIB or asbestos cement
  • Asbestos cement flue
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Textiles, like fire blankets
  • Lagging on boilers and pipes
  • Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls, beams or columns
  • Asbestos cement water tank

Are there any other risk factors to consider?

Yes. Before any structural work is undertaken on a building, it’s vital to complete a thorough risk assessment – and for buildings that pre-date 2000, an asbestos check will likely make up a key component of that risk assessment.

You’re generally viewed to be most at risk when:

  • The risk assessment was not completed, or was completed incorrectly
  • No plans or procedures are in place (or observed) for identifying and protecting workers from asbestos
  • You’ve not been personally appraised of the risks, or you’re not qualified to deal with asbestos
  • You’re not wearing PPE

PPE (or Personal Protective Equipment) is a particularly vital aspect of protecting yourself against asbestos. While it’s not necessarily wise to rely on it for complete protection, it can help vastly lower the risk factors – which can even make the difference or not between saving your life.

Proper training is another vital factor to ensuring that safety standards are met, and that’s something we’re in a position to provide here at Browns Safety. Our Asbestos Awareness course delivers a comprehensive range of guidance in how to identify, remove and minimise the risks of asbestos. It’s essential for employees whose work has the potential to expose them to asbestos, including plumbers, builders, heating engineers, joiners and electricians. You can find out more information using the link above, or to book your place, give us a call on 01282 615517!

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