Asbestos Exposure Prevention: Safeguarding Your Family’s Future
For many years, asbestos was highly valued in several industries due to its exceptional properties, such as being resistant to heat, fire, and chemicals. However, the usage of asbestos has been overshadowed by its hazardous health risks that have become more apparent over the years.
When asbestos is disturbed, it releases tiny fibres that cannot be seen with the naked eye into the air. These fibres can cause severe lung damage, leading to life-threatening lung diseases and cancers in other organs, such as the larynx and ovaries.
Consequently, tough laws have been in place since 1999, banning its use in the UK.
If your UK home was built before 1999, there is a good chance it will contain Asbestos Containing Materials, commonly abbreviated to ACMs. To find out if your home has ACM, you must contact an asbestos survey company. There are two types of surveys in the UK, an Asbestos Management Survey and a Demolition and Refurbishment Asbestos Survey. The management survey is not intrusive and suitable for determining the presence of asbestos in a residential property. The demolition and refurbishment survey is used when demolition or renovations are planned for the property. This survey is intrusive and should only be done on vacated buildings.
Once you have the survey results, if ACMs are present, you must decide your best course of action. Expert contractors will help you with your options.
Removal or Encapsulation
When handling materials containing asbestos, there are two main methods: removal and encapsulation. Deciding which method to use depends on several factors, such as the condition and location of the asbestos-containing materials and their risk level. Below is a description of each approach:
To eliminate exposure to asbestos fibres, completely removing the asbestos-containing materials is often recommended. This is especially important when the ACMs are in poor condition, easily crumbled, or likely to be disturbed during maintenance or renovation. Expert asbestos removal contractors follow strict safety procedures during the removal process to prevent the release of asbestos fibres. After removal, the ACMs are carefully sealed, packaged, and disposed of according to regulations. Asbestos removal results in the complete elimination of asbestos from the premises, thus minimising the risk of exposure to harmful asbestos fibres.
This approach is generally recommended when the ACMs are in poor condition, friable (easily crumble), or could be disturbed during maintenance work or renovations.
Trained professionals specialising in asbestos removal take great care to follow strict safety guidelines to stop the release of asbestos fibres during removal. Once the ACMs are removed, they are sealed, packaged, and disposed of following regulations. This ensures that all traces of asbestos are eliminated from the premises.
When dealing with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs), it is vital to prevent the release of asbestos fibres. This can be achieved through encapsulation or sealing, where a protective coating or enclosure is applied over the ACMs. This method is most suitable when the ACMs are in good condition and not likely to be disturbed. Encapsulation creates a barrier that contains the asbestos fibres and reduces the chance of release. Professional contractors use specialised encapsulation products to seal the ACMs securely. However, regular monitoring and maintenance are necessary to maintain the effectiveness of encapsulation.
Asbestos Risk Assessment and Management
Risk Categories: High, Medium, or Low
Asbestos found in a building is categorised depending on the risk posed. These categories decide the necessary actions to manage and control the risks effectively. In the UK, the types are high, medium, and low.
High-risk asbestos is in poor condition and could release fibres. High-risk ACMs must be removed or sealed quickly to reduce the risk.
ACMs in the medium-risk category have a moderate potential for fibre release. Although the risk may not be as immediate or severe as high-risk ACMs, managing and controlling these materials is still necessary. Regular inspections are required to ensure that medium-risk ACMs do not decline and that the proper actions are taken promptly.
Asbestos-containing materials that fall under the low-risk category have a minimal chance of releasing fibres, as they are stable and well-maintained. These materials are not likely to release asbestos fibres unless disturbed or damaged. Although the risk is low, managing and monitoring low-risk ACMs for deterioration or accidental disturbance is still crucial. Regular inspections and proper control measures should be implemented.
Factors Affecting Asbestos Risk
factors contribute to the risk of asbestos exposure from asbestos-containing materials. We must understand these factors to control the risks associated with asbestos. Below are some essential elements to look out for:
Condition of ACMs
The state of the ACMs plays a meaningful role in their risk level. ACMs in a satisfactory condition, with minor damage, are a lower risk than damaged, deteriorated, or crumbling ACMs.
Location of ACMs
The site influences the risk level of ACMs in a building. ACMs in zones with regular human activity or where maintenance and renovation work are likely to occur are a greater risk than ACMs in less accessible or undisturbed areas of the home.
The extent of ACMs
The amount and distribution of ACMs play a substantial role in the risk. Where there are high quantities of ACMs or present throughout the building, the chances of fibre release and exposure increase.
Accessibility and Disturbance
Asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) that can be easily accessed or are susceptible to disturbance pose higher risks. ACMs in high-traffic areas, placed near mechanical systems, or in places that undergo maintenance activities are likelier to be disturbed, releasing asbestos fibres.
Maintenance and Management
Effective maintenance and management practices are crucial in reducing the risk associated with asbestos. Conducting routine inspections, monitoring, and implementing appropriate control measures like encapsulation or removal can help maintain the integrity of ACMs and prevent any unintended disturbance.
Occupant Awareness and Training
People who use and work in older buildings need to be aware of the risks and how to reduce the chance of exposure. It’s important to provide education and training on managing asbestos safely and reporting any problems.
Compliance to Protect Your Loved Ones
Sticking to HSE asbestos guidelines and taking note of the tips provided here will help manage asbestos and protect your family’s health. Take care that the appropriate measures are in place to identify, assess, and control ACMs effectively.