Asbestos – know the enemy within……

Not a company to let the grass grow under our feet, the team at ACCL has recently undergone an Asbestos awareness course, to take into account recent changes made to the health and safety legislation regarding said Asbestos 🙂 Changes were made because of the European Commissions view that the UK had not fully implemented the EU Directive on exposure to Asbestos (Directive 2000/148/EC) – Is it me or are we always in trouble with the EU??! 🙂  The newly updated Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 came into force on 6 April.  So, what does it mean? Basically, when undertaking a job, if asbestos is suspected, checks need to be made! Ultimately it is the responsibilty of whoever has control of the building, it’s their job to convey the risks to the contractor, through a survey or management plan. Any works involving asbestos then need to be notified to the relevant enforcing authority, and brief written records need to be kept. 

Asbestos is nasty…. a fibrous mineral which occurs naturally in the World (showing my ignorance now, I always thought it was man-made…) the fibres are the finest known, a 2cm cube contains 15 million miles of fibres! It was extensively used as a building material for a variety of purposes in the UK from the 1950’s up til the mid-1980’s, being used mainly for fireproofing and insulation, it has it’s good points – heat resistant up to 900˚C and doesn’t burn, it’s a  non-conductor of electricity and is cheap and easy to use, as a result of this, it could be present in any building built or refurbished before 2000, residential or commercial. It is estimated that there is somewhere in the region of 6 million tonnes present in UK buildings. It was banned, finally, in 1999. Inhalation of the fibres can cause serious disease, and apologies, this doesn’t make pleasant reading 😦 the 4 main diseases being mesothelioma (an incurable form of cancer) lung cancer (which is nearly always fatal) asbestosis (not always fatal but very debilitating) and diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal) It is the single biggest cause of work related deaths in the UK. It is estimated that around 3000 people die each year from asbestos related diseases, this is expected to reach 10,000 by 2020, by which time it will probably start to decline due to measures taken from the 1980’s onwards.

Asbestos materials in good condition pose no threat (well now, that’s reassuring…!) only becoming dangerous when the particles become airborne, you cannot see or smell asbestos fibres in the air and the effects can take between 5 and 50 years to show up. The problem with asbestos is that the fibres are sharp and strong and do not evaporate in the air or dissolve in water, they can remain suspended in the air for a long period of time and carried long distances. If these fibres are inhaled, they get stuck in the lung, and cannot be broken down by the body….this is the stuff of nightmares 😦  When work is undertaken in a building where you suspect the presence of asbestos, you need to make the appropriate checks.  In many cases even experts fail to recognise it and samples need to be sent to laboratories for analysis. Scary stuff eh? So, if you’re looking to move or refurbish your current premises (or your home for that matter!) make sure you know what you’re dealing with, talk to the professionals…

For further guidance, go to the HSE website :http://www.hse.gov.uk/

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