Asbestos, to this day, remains a great danger within most properties (domestic, commercial & industrial) constructed or refurbished before the year 2000, especially those built before 1974. It is important to make sure all asbestos - regardless of its grade, type or concentration - is kept in good condition and re-inspected every 12 months as a minimum (asbestos with a high risk rating should be re-inspected every 3-6 months) by a trained professional. The hazardous material should be removed as far as reasonably practicable prior to any planned refurbishment works and should always be removed prior to demolition in compliance with HSE legislation documentation: HSG264 & CAR2012.
Asbestos is a category 1 carcinogen causing a number of diseases - such as mesothelioma and asbestosis to name a couple - therefore complying with rules and regulations of asbestos law is extremely important. These regulations have been put in place to ensure people are living in a safe environment as they go about their day to day life and for people working with or around asbestos to stay compliant and safe. When materials that contain asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibres are released into the air which, when inhaled, can cause several serious diseases as mentioned above. These diseases will not affect you immediately as they often take a long time to develop but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. This is why it is important to protect yourself now.
There are three main types of asbestos used within domestic, commercial and industrial properties across the UK: Chrysotile (Serpentine Group – White Asbestos), Amosite / Grunerite (Amphibole Group – Brown Asbestos) and Crocidolite (Amphibole Group – Blue Asbestos). The less common types of asbestos are Anthophyllite, Tremolite and Actinolite (Amphibole Group also). Of the latter list, some of these asbestos types were never used in the UK.Asbestos can be difficult to identify as it was mixed into a wide variety of materials and used during the construction stage within a vast number of 20th century builds therefore should be dealt with by trained professionals only. It is scored and assessed during the surveying stage by the level of risk it poses. For example, asbestos bitumen adhesive is a very low risk material compared to asbestos insulation board (AIB). You can also find asbestos in the following non-exhaustive list of materials:
- Floor Tiles
- Sprayed Coating
- Rope / Textiles
- Thermal Insulation
As asbestos is a very diverse product, it was used in many different ways. Due to its insulating and fire-resistant properties, the fibres offered strength without adding much weight making the mineral an ideal substance to add into existing building materials. Some examples of how it was used are as follows:
- Soffits / Undercloaking / Roof Tiles / Sarking Felt
- Insulation to Tanks & Pipes
- Gaskets to Pipework Flanges
- Textured Coating
- Bitumen Adhesive / Damp Proof Course
- Rope Seals to Flue Pipes / Ventilation Ducting
- Packing to Cast Iron Downpipes
If you are a building owner and/or are responsible for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises, you have a duty to manage any asbestos in that building. The duty to manage covers all non-domestic premises including industrial and commercial buildings such as factories, warehouses, offices and shops. The duty also covers public buildings such as hospitals, schools, museums, libraries, leisure centres and religious buildings. Although the duty does not apply to domestic premises such as private houses, it does apply to the ‘common parts’ of multi-occupancy domestic premises, such as purpose-built flats or houses that are converted into flats.