Whilst the use of asbestos in constructing new buildings in the UK has been banned since 1999, many buildings still contain this material. Let’s take a look at some of the key issues, as well as considering ways in which workers can stay safe.
The Health and Safety Executive suggests that any building either built or refurbished before 2000 could contain asbestos. Therefore, these buildings could pose a health risk to people using them, as well as people working on their construction or maintenance.
How much is out there?
The scale of asbestos existence in the UK, which was initially used due to its flame retardant properties, is still massive. Six million tonnes of this material is believed to be in the UK, most of which is in buildings. Construction experts estimate that there could be as many as 1.5 million buildings, most of which public, containing asbestos. BBC research has found that most London hospitals contain asbestos, as well as more than three quarters of UK schools.
Ticking time bomb
The onset of cancers related to asbestos inhalation can happen up to 50 years after initial exposure, with deaths now thought to be reaching a peak. This is due to the widest use of asbestos in industry being from the 1950s to the 1970s. In 2017, 2,523 people died from mesothelioma, which is a cancer caused almost exclusively by inhalation of asbestos fibres. A similar number of deaths were recorded in the five previous years (https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/jul/07/britains-death-toll-from-asbestos-at-crisis-level-figures-reveal).
Working with asbestos
If you are replacing ductwork parts which were made from asbestos with the safe parts manufactured today, such as those available at https://www.dustspares.co.uk/ductwork-parts/, the HSE has very clear guidelines about working with this deadly material.
If, when you are working, you come across materials that you believe could contain asbestos, you firstly need to stop and speak to your employer or building owner. Essential protective equipment such as face masks is vital to staying safe around asbestos.
On the job, it is vital to clean up as you go, and wash thoroughly before you go home. Above all, ensuring that you are adequately trained before working with asbestos can help keep everybody safe.
Waste materials should be safely disposed of at a licensed tip which can deal with asbestos in a secure manner.