Asbestos is a carcinogenic fibrous mineral found in an array of building materials. Problems with asbestos arise when such materials are disturbed or damaged and no asbestos management plan is in place, for example during building or refurbishing work, as the fibres in these products inevitably become released into the air. The fibres then embed themselves into the lining of a person’s lungs. It is never immediately apparent that a person exposed to asbestos has inhaled these fibres because they are invisible to the naked eye and have no fragrance and, after exposure, the symptoms can take many years to develop fully.
Prolonged asbestos exposure can result in serious lung problems, and in some cases can be fatal, leading to the excruciating and painful disease known as asbestosis, with little chance of recovery.
The use of asbestos in any building product was banned in 1999, as reported cases of the effects of continuous exposure came to the attention of the medical world and its toxic chemical qualities were exposed. Scientists then announced that even a small amount of the fibre posed a great threat.
Asbestos has been used from the 1950s through to the 1980s due to its relative cheapness and its effective insulating properties, for example, asbestos insulation was widely used in house building. Therefore, there is a possibility today that numerous buildings may still contain traces of asbestos in many of their current building materials.
If left alone and undisturbed, asbestos does not pose an immediate threat. However, it is often the case that when building or refurbishment work takes place on a property that has been built or refurbished before the year 2000, any asbestos present can be disturbed or damaged. This can pose an immediate threat of exposure to those in the near vicinity.
It is possible to find asbestos in both industrial properties, such as factories, offices, shops, restaurants and even schools, as well as residential dwellings such as homes, sheds, and other outbuildings.
If an owner is planning on undertaking work in a building with any possible suspicion at all of the asbestos being present, in particular, that of one built or refurbished before the year 2000, it is imperative that the appropriate precautions should be taken which allow the affected areas to be identified and its condition determined.
Once asbestos is discovered in any property, it is the owner’s sole responsibility to act under the law’s surrounding its successive treatment, because failing to do so ultimately puts the lives of those working around the infected areas at risk, as well as the immediate environment.
Any person attempting to knowingly remove and dispose of asbestos without the appropriate licence risks hefty prosecution through negligence. Additionally, if asbestos is uncovered during building work without prior knowledge of its existence, all work needs to be stopped immediately, and the area should be contained and evacuated while expert help is sought. The inherent dangers, both actual and legislative should be taken into account when considering asbestos plan requirements.
Choosing the right asbestos removal company
The first step in dealing with asbestos involves undertaking an asbestos survey of the area. This will identify the exact location of asbestos while also determining the extent of the problem and allow you to analyse your asbestos management plan requirements.
Only an approved asbestos management company will be qualified to perform such a task. Such a company will, therefore, hold an HSE licence. This is a licence issued by The Health and Safety at Work Act which certifies that the company is legally allowed to identify and remove asbestos in conjunction with required regulations and to a clear asbestos action plan. A reputable company should be able to provide this certification upon request while being clear and transparent about its asbestos handling experience and credentials, should they be required. They should also offer an opportunity to discuss their findings and preventative measures that they are intending to take, keeping those involved in the project informed at all times.
Asbestos management is an extremely hazardous job that requires specific training and the use of protective equipment to ensure its safe removal with no harm or threat posed to the population or the environment. Knowledge and safety of asbestos removal processes are therefore paramount, and only fully reputable and licensed companies should be sought to undertake such work.