If you have been affected by a fire, flood or any damage event which has or may resulted in damage to structural components such as walls, ceilings, floors or components, contents, asbestos may be present which may become airborne and consequently affect you. There is a standard procedure and legal obligation on contractors to assume asbestos containing materials are present unless specific information and proof exists to the contrary.Chrysotile asbestos was only banned form use in the UK in November 1999 although Amosite and Crocidolite was phased out in 1984. Contractors must assess this risk prior to any works, which may involve debris or demolition or disturbance.
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- Asbestos in any of its forms is safe as long as it is not friable or damaged. This generally means that where asbestos is present and is not damaged the risk of breathing in it‘s tiny fibres and developing asbestosis is very low.
- In the UK Asbestos was finally banned for use in 1999. This means it can be expected to be found in almost all buildings!
- The death rate from asbestosis is rising and government agencies have introduced new management and contractor regulations to make it as safe as possible, especially during fire, water and disaster damage scenes. Asbestos can be found in both homes and business premises, from an ironing board to artex decorative plaster, ceiling tiles to pipe lagging or insulation board in tank or heater cupboards. Various laws dictate who and how damaged asbestos must be dealt with. In the USA asbestos was banned a little earlier but considering its extensive use in building construction it will remain a health threat for many years.
- Asbestos is known as the magic tragic mineral, and is almost indestructible. Typically it is used as an additive to plastics, cement as a bonding agent similar to glass fibre matting. It has also been used as a insulator from both heat, fire and is chemical inert resisting the effects of both acids and alkali.:
Asbestos is generally found in 3 forms:
Asbestos is generally considered as safe when undisturbed and protected by covering which prevents it from becoming friable or damaged. It‘s tiny fibres, once airborne are capable of causing lung cancer. All asbestos is now considered dangerous and working with it is subject to a criminal law, The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 1998. Asbestos in the form of Amosite and Crocidolite was in general use up until 1984, although the use and import of Chrysotile into the U.K. was not banned until November 1999.
Asbestos can be found in buildings for the following uses:
- Radiators and shields
- Wall panels
- Ceiling tiles
- Fire Doors and fire stops
- Roof Sheeting ‘corrugated‘
- Bitumen felt,
- Floor tiles and vinyl
- Artex plaster
- Toilet seats, Bath panels and Wall panels
- Boliers, flue‘s, lagging
- Walls and partitions
- Decorative textured paints
- Formica work tops
Over 70% of commercial premises contain asbestos. More than 3,000 people a year, die from exposure to Asbestos, mainly in the building or rmaintenance trades, usually affected because they work, drill or demolish materials that contain asbestos. Legislation has been introduced to protect people, it‘s simple logic is, if a material could contain asbestos it must be assumed to be asbestos unless proven free of asbestos. Surveys are necessary where the potential material is identified and analysed. You cannot guess something is asbestos or not, you must by law, confirm or deny by suitable risk assessments, usually laboratory inspection of samples. It is a criminal offence for an unlicensed contractor to work on asbestos containing material in most scenarios although some exceptions exist.
While the management of asbestos regulations introduced in Nov 2002 are aimed at ”Non Domestic Premises”, the pre existing legislation held contractors liable and responsible for the safe working practices, which includes the identification of risk and hazard including asbestos exposure. This covers all workplaces including domestic homes as well as commercial premises. Unfortunately many contractors ignore the health implications or liabilities when working in domestic premises especially when undertaking disaster recovery works. Typically asbestos flooring, vinyl, artex, decorative plaster, paints and a variety of other asbestos containing products are simply ripped out, possibly exposing the resident or employee to asbestos fibres
Asbestos is covered by the Control of Asbestos Regulations CAR 2006 which replaced the earlier CAWR act. This means that only properly trained and licensed contractors can remove it. Before this can happen a detailed plan must be provided to the Health and Safety Executive for approval. This can take 14 days but in an emergency a special ‘waiver‘can be requested. This may take two or three days. In exceptional circumstances some specialist companies can undertake immediate works.
Measurement & legislation changes Artex and Asbestos Cement Sheet (ACS)Due to its density and low asbestos fibre content thiese materials are not included within the parameters of the CAR. This means that any contractor can remove ACS but they must still undertake the works following the Approved Code of Practice. This in effect follows the same safety procedures as if it were a licensable product but does not require a licensed contractor to undertake the work. The removal of Artex from the licensing regulatiions in 2007 may result in un trained contractors removing "Artex" and causing contamintion problems.
Duty To Manage Asbestos CAWR Regulation 4 (Ammended CAR)
Non domestic Property.Legislation requires all property owners, tenants to have an on site log of any asbestos containing material or prior to undertaking any work action undertake a risk and hazard assessment to identify if or where any hazardous material may be located or involved with the work action.
The LegislationLegislation was introduced in November 2002 which requires all non domestic or workplace premises to have an asbestos management system in place by May 2004. (MAW Regs 2002) The log will inform visiting contractors of surveys that should by law have been carried out.
Note. some domestic properties are included especially where contractors are nominated for maintenance or repairs or there are common parts not generally recognised as being part of the dwelling. This can for example include stair wells, corridors.
The surveys follow one or a combination of 3 types:
The government takes asbestos very seriously. It requires notification of when asbestos work is undertaken. The notification period is 14 days before works start and the licensed contractor must submit a full and detailed method statement including controls, monitoring and safety issues. It is a criminal offence to undertake asbestos work without a pre-notification and consent from the Health and Safety Executive. It is also a criminal offence to permit an unlicensed contractor to undertake any works which may fall under the legislation.,
- Type 1: A listing of all suspected but not proven materials as seen from a walk through survey undertaken by a qualified Asbestos Surveyor. This will probably include "All" walls, ceilings, floors, panels and may create substantial delay when damage repair is required. The lowest cost survey does have the draw back that all materials must be assumed to contain asbestos where possible and that these must therefore be recorded and managed.
- Type 2: A visual survey similar to type 1, but where suspect materials are present, samples will be taken under controlled conditions to confirm or deny asbestos presence.
- Type 3: A full intrusive survey where all hidden and visible materials have been analysed. Type three surveys are usually undertaken prior to demolition or major renovation works.
Emergency works to reduce, control or limit contamination may be permitted following detailed documentation presented to the Health and Safety Executive, this is called a waiver and can take days to obtain, and may disrupt mitigation work. Some licensed Asbestos contractors, where qualified and competent in Health and Safety Law, may in Emergency situations undertake Emergency works immediately, but proof of competence is required to protect the client from criminal liability and health issues.
Management of Asbestos "New Regulations"The essence of this regulation is for the building owner or tenant to identify any asbestos contained within the entire structure. This identification is coupled to a duty of management to prevent accidental disturbance or fibre release or exposure to workers or occupants.
Compliance to these new regulations is by the formation of a record of inspection, detailing condition, type, and several other requirements, which are grouped by a algorithm, risk assessment. This will enable the management team and in particular the new role of ‘‘Duty Holder‘‘ to identify budgets and control measures. Surveys should be undertaken with the framework of a recognised standard and be reviewed at regular periods dictated by the risk assessment but usually once or twice a year.
The Damage or disaster SceneDue to the cost and disruption elements of a type 3 survey, few if any companies will undertake them, unless required as previously mentioned. When a disaster event occurs there may be a requirement to remove or clear out damaged areas and clearly asbestos contamination or content must be considered. This may result in either delay in disaster recovery, restoration works. Should asbestos contamination be identified or suspected licensed contractors will be required to undertake decontamination works. This requires total isolation of the affected and possibly adjacent areas and only licensed asbestos contractors will be allowed into the enclosure. This may have a substantial impact on cost or recovery times and you may consider the need for personnel trained and licensed in both asbestos and restoration.
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