Guide to Managing Asbestos

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Any property built before the year 2000, runs the risk of containing building materials made from asbestos as it was only in 1999 that the use of asbestos in construction was made illegal.

With this understanding, before any building work, refurbishments or repairs can take place; it is vital to find out when your property was built so you can determine the potential risk to your contractors.

Yet this is not all you need to factor into the equation. Should you discover asbestos in your property, you need to implement necessary precautions to identify where it is located, how to test it, if it is damaged and how to proceed.

Below we have constructed a detailed guide that will walk you through the various stages of managing asbestos and ensuring safety for all.

Step One: When was your property built?

Built in or after 2000, then it is unlikely to have any asbestos. However, if you’re not sure when your property was built, it is safer to assume that the property contains asbestos and get it tested, than run the risk of endangering your health. Similarly, if your property has been built on a brownfield site, there may be asbestos buried underground (as past common practice). In this situation, we recommend contacting your local authority planning department to confirm if you are on a brownfield site and the possibility of asbestos being buried there.

Step Two: Identify materials made using asbestos

Alongside identifying potential building materials in the property that may contain asbestos, it is also worth investigating to see if there are any existing asbestos records, as this will help you to better inspect the property and identify ‘hot spots’. If there are prior records, get a copy of these and compare them against its building plans. Also:  – look for records of previous asbestos work  – talk to previous owners and tenants of the building  – speak to equipment suppliers and repairers NOTE: Don’t take previous asbestos surveys at face value as something might have been missed. If you suspect asbestos get it all tested. Step Three: Do a survey Even if you have got a strong understanding of your property; when it was built and all the common sources of materials made with asbestos; we still recommend hiring an asbestos surveyor to inspect and assess the building. They will then use your building plan to walk around the property and mark what contains (or might contain) asbestos; how much of it there is and its condition. Similarly they will mark down areas on the plan that you can’t access (roof voids, wall cavities etc.).

Using the information they acquire, you can then complete an asbestos register, which you’ll need to date and sign.

Step Four: Get samples tested NOTE: unless you are planning to do work on your property or there is damage, you don’t necessarily have to get suspected materials tested. Otherwise, your surveyor should be able to take samples as they explore your property.

These samples will then be sent away to an UKAS Accredited asbestos testing laboratory, where they will then either call or email you the results within approximately 24 hours. Alternatively you can hire an EPA-approved contractor to take your samples for testing.

TIP: To safely prepare the area for testing, it is important to stop all forms of air conditioning, fans and ventilation systems; close off the area and not let anyone in or out of the room being tested. If you’re doing it in your home, it may be wise to ask everyone to leave until the testing is finished.

Similarly, the following safety procedures need to be adhered to:

  • Anyone within the testing room should wear protective clothing and gear – protective gloves, boots and clothes that can be disposed of, as well as a face mask
  • Place plastic sheeting below the area being testing and secure it with tape
  • Spray the area with water to keep loose fibres from getting into the air.
  • Use a specialised tool to cut the sample
  • Place the sample in a sealable container
  • Patch the sample area with a plastic sheet, drywall or tape to prevent fibres from spreading.
  • Place protective contaminated clothing into a sealed container to be disposed of.

Step Five: Is there any damage? Can it be repaired? What safety procedures are involved? During step three, your surveyor should have recorded a material score and a priority score on the suspected areas on your asbestos register. If the asbestos material is found to be in good condition, they would score both as a 1. However, if it is found to not be in good condition, it will have a higher number. Using this scale/ranking (which you can consult your surveyor on), they can then help you to determine which areas need repairing and which need replacing.

Repairs themselves are relatively simple as paint, wallpaper or PVA adhesives can be used to secure the area. Simply make sure that it is first primed with an alkali resistant primer, before covering with emulsion or bitumastic paint.

However, no matter how simple this process sounds, don’t do these repairs yourself, but hire a professional HSE licensed asbestos contractor. Fully trained, they will have access to all the right equipment, tools and resources to get the job done correctly, whilst adhering to full safety procedures. TIP: DO NOT sand or scrape the surface before repair. Simply cover it up or hire a professional contractor to perform the repair.

Similarly: Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM) apply, meaning you need to give 14 days’ notice before work can start.

Step Six: What to do in the case of removal? Safety protocols.

No matter whether you need a small amount removing or a large section; all EPA contractors are subject to Waste Management Controls and must wear specialised respiratory masks and protective overalls to complete removals. They must also vacuum seal the space, to prevent dust from getting into other areas of your home/property.

This is achieved by creating a tightly sealed, enclosed space that covers all your floors and walls (using heavy duty polythene bags and boarding); before adding a vent that filters asbestos fibres out of the room. Next, these specialists will wet the area – to prevent the release of loose fibres – before safely removing the asbestos materials and double bagging it. Once the asbestos has been removed, it is their responsibility to thoroughly dispose of the sheeting and board flooring they have used to protect your room, and eliminate all traces of dust.

All asbestos waste is then doubled bagged in heavy duty polythene bags and clearly labelled with labels prescribed for asbestos. These bags are then transported to licensed disposal sites for destruction.

Step Seven: Who needs to be informed?

  • If it is a commercial property, you’ll need to tell your employees. If it is your home, you should inform your whole family.
  • Contractors, decorators, roofers, joiners, plasterers, shop fitters, builders, plumbers, electricians, fitters (of any kind – installers, heaters, engineers), maintenance, etc.- essentially anyone performing work on the fabric of your property should ALWAYS be informed of its presence so they can take appropriate measures before they commence work.
  • Records – your asbestos records should always be up-to-date and contain information of any work you have had done on asbestos materials. It is recommended that you check the condition of these materials at least once a year to see if there has been any type of deterioration.

TIP: stick labels on all areas that contains or might contain asbestos, so people can see where it is located and will be careful not to disturb or damage it.

Step Eight: Get a safe environment certification

This certificate certifies you have done everything you can to secure the environment and protect the safety of your workers.

For more information on managing asbestos contact ICE Asbestos today. Our experts are licensed, trained and insured to work all over the UK, with offices based in Nottingham, Darlington, Birmingham, Leeds and Norwich.

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