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Under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, it’s a legal requirement that anyone working with sprayed asbestos coatings, asbestos insulation or asbestos lagging and most types of asbestos insulating board (AIB) has a licence because of the extremely hazardous nature of these materials.

People who knowingly disturb low risk asbestos containing materials, such as maintenance workers, don’t require a licence but must still have relevant training. In addition, anyone who could stumble across asbestos at work must receive asbestos awareness training.

The golden rules for anyone working with asbestos at any level are the same and include the following:

  • Use hand tools - not power tools.
  • Keep materials damp - not too wet.
  • Don’t smoke, eat or drink in the work area.
  • Double-bag asbestos waste and label the bags.
  • Clean up as you go using a special (Class H) vacuumcleaner.
  • After work, wipe down your overalls with a damp rag or wear disposable overalls (Type 5).
  • Always remove overalls before removing your mask.
  • Don’t take overalls home to wash.
  • Wear boots without laces or disposable boot covers.
  • Put disposable clothing items in asbestos waste bags and dispose of them properly.
  • Most importantly wear a properly fitted, suitable mask (eg.disposable FFP3 type). Although disposable masks often look similar they vary greatly and offer very different levels of protection. There are three main classifications that offerlow, medium and high filtering and different categories depending on individual hazards.

DANGER ZONE

Asbestos - the hidden killer.

Asbestos became a popular building material, which was often used for insulation and fireproofing, during the 1950s and even though it was banned in 1999 it’s still found in millions of buildings. There is an estimated six million tonnes of asbestos in schools, hospitals, ships, offices and factories.

Every day 11 people die of asbestos related illnesses in the UK, and the HSE predicts that deaths from mesothelioma, which is a common cancer caused by asbestos, will continue to rise in the coming years.

In most cases as long as it is well maintained and not disintegrating it doesn’t present any immediate health hazards. However, inhaling loose asbestos fibres which are usually produced when it is disturbed, can cause fatal lung diseases and even a small amount of asbestos dust can be lethal.

To make matters worse asbestos can be very difficult to identify because it comes in all shapes, sizes and colours: instead a sample of the suspect material must be sent to a laboratory to be tested.

Asbestos can turn up in lots of surprising places including insulating board behind electric meters, cement cladding on walls, corrugated roofs, pipe lagging, toilet cisterns, water tanks, ceiling tiles and vinyl floor tiles. Plus, hessian sacks, which are widely recycled, were often used to carry asbestos and can be contaminated.

Those who are responsible for the maintenance of a non-domestic property have a “duty to manage” the asbestos in them. They must check for the presence of asbestos before commencing work on a building which was built before 2000, and then undertake a subsequent risk assessment to see if the work can be done without disturbing the material.

Any worker who could come into contact with asbestos on a day-to-day basis should be trained on; how to recognise asbestos; how to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos and the correct equipment to use when working with low level asbestos.

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 state that asbestos cannot be recycled under any circumstances. To dispose of waste containing asbestos you either must use a registered provider or become a registered provider yourself.

The Health and Safety Executive has a useful image gallery on its website showing real photographs of typical asbestos-containing materials that are regularly found in buildings.

For more information please visit slingsby.com/healthandsafety

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