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Owing to the fact that damaged or disturbed asbestos has the potential to release harmful fibres into the air, it must be handled with extreme care and caution. Not only when it gets removed from domestic properties and commercial premises, but also during disposal as well. In the vast majority of cases, this task is carried out and managed by a professional company. Take Sperion for example, an asbestos management firm capable of providing a one-stop service and innovative solutions for all asbestos-related matters. However, it is still important to know about the rules and regulations of working with this material as well as essential safety procedures to dispose of asbestos.

Asbestos rules and regulations

Seeing as the European Commission thought that the UK had not fully implement the EU directive (directive 2009/148/EC) on exposure to asbestos, new legislation came into force on 6th April 2002. However changes included in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 were fairly limited and references to disposal stayed much the same. The regulations state, “In the majority of cases, work with asbestos needs to be done by a licensed contractor. This work includes most asbestos removal, all work with sprayed asbestos coatings and asbestos lagging and most work with asbestos insulation and asbestos insulating board (AIB).” Some non-licensed asbestos work still requires effective controls, but now needs to be notified to the relevant enforcing authority. Written records also need to be documented, while non-licensed workers must be under health surveillance by a doctor.

Defining asbestos waste

According to the Health and Safety Executive, any asbestos product or material that is ready for disposal can be defined as asbestos waste. This may also include contaminated building materials, tools that cannot be decontaminated, personal protective equipment and damp rags used for cleaning. The HSE recommends that if in doubt, treat all waste as hazardous, which is when it contains more than 0.1 per cent asbestos. However, you cannot mix asbestos waste with other waste to get below 0.1 per cent.

Removal and disposal of asbestos waste

The HSE has the following advice for the removal and disposal of asbestos waste:

  • Asbestos waste must be packed in UN-approved packaging, which should feature a CDG hazard sign and the asbestos code information visible.
  • Asbestos waste must be double-wrapped and labelled appropriately. The standard practice is to use a red inner bag with asbestos warnings and a clear outer bag with the CDG hazard sign.
  • Avoid overfilling bags and beware of sharp objects that could puncture the plastic.
  • If transporting asbestos waste, you should use a sealed skip or a vehicle with a segregated compartment for asbestos. This should be easily cleanable and lockable too. If this is not possible, arrange for transport by a registered waste carrier.
  • Asbestos waste must be disposed of at a licensed site.
  • Remember to complete a waste consignment note and keep copies of these documents for three years.

Even though these steps will enable you to safely disposal of asbestos, it is still highly recommended to enlist the services of a professional, such as Sperion.

Despite the fact asbestos is no longer used as a construction material, it can still be found in buildings built or refurbished before the year 2000. For this reason, it remains an ever-present threat to people working nearby. When asbestos is disturbed or damaged, it can release harmful fibres into the air. If inhaled, these fibres can result in serious illness and disease, which take a long time to develop but once diagnosed theses are sadly often fatal. So, to ensure you remain free from any harm, taking necessary precautions is crucial. The following safety tips when working with asbestos have been put together by professional removal, management, and surveying firm Sperion.

  1. Wear the right clothing and protection

In addition to protective overalls and eyewear, you should also wear some sort of self-contained breathing apparatus. Regrettably, the penetrative nature of asbestos fibres mean they are small enough to travel through most masks, so you will need to choose wisely. Your best bet will be a mask with a HEPA filter, which are designed to protect against gases, dust, and toxic substances, such as asbestos. However, always check the manufacturer guidelines as to what your mask protects against.

  1. Wash your clothes straight away

Even if you wear overalls while working near or with asbestos, these should be washed before you take them home. When this is not possible, place them into a sealed back and change into clean clothes that have not come into contact with any dust. Clothes covered in asbestos have been a historical source of secondary exposure. So, always rinse before attempting to clean with soap, as wet asbestos fibres cannot become airborne.

  1. Shower as soon as you can

Asbestos fibres can also stick to your skin and hair, which is why you should shower as soon as possible after working. This might need some forward planning to ensure you can shower on site or nearby without having to go home first. If this isn’t possible, try to cover your entire body with protective clothing, which could include gloves and a hood or hairnet.

  1. Follow correct safety procedures

Even though it might be tempting to cut corners in order to reduce the amount of time you work with asbestos, this has the potential to cause more harm than good. Therefore, follow the correct safety procedures such as wetting materials, sealing off the area, and making other employees or members of the public aware of what is going on to avoid unwanted exposure.

  1. Educate yourself about asbestos

Rather than distancing yourself from asbestos, take a more proactive approach and attempt to understand where it is commonly located and what products might contain the material. By increasing your knowledge, you will be better prepared but less likely to suffer from exposure. A great deal of information about asbestos is available from the HSE’s website. Alternatively, get in contact with a company like Sperion. In addition to providing advice, this adept and experienced organisation can manage the entire removal and disposal process for you.

Commonly found in buildings built before the year 2000, asbestos is an incredibly dangerous mineral and causes around 5,000 deaths every year. When materials containing asbestos are disturbed or damaged, deadly fibres are released into the air, which if inhaled, can cause serious illness and disease such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, pleural thickening and asbestosis. For that reason, asbestos surveying, removal and disposal usually needs to be carried out by a specialised, experienced and most importantly, licensed contractor. Unfortunately, unscrupulous tradespeople are carrying out these services without the correct training, knowledge or certifications. Not only does this present health risks for the individual performing the work, it also puts members of the public in danger too. Therefore, it is crucial to know that the contractor or firm you are choosing to use for your asbestos surveying, removal and disposal needs are capable, qualified and reputable. So, with this in mind, here is what you should look for in an asbestos removal firm, cost is one thing but there is much more to consider than the financial expense of getting the job done!

Competitive price

Before you even start researching or asking questions of a particular contractor, the asbestos removal cost they are quoting could be a big giveaway. Those in need of asbestos surveying, removal and disposal will obviously want to pay a reasonable and affordable price, but extreme caution should be exercised when cheap quotes are provided. If it sounds too good to be true, it invariably is. The asbestos removal cost can vary significantly depending on the type of material, but Sperion is able to provide advice on the most economical way to manage this harmful mineral, which can potentially save you thousands of pounds in the long run.

Correct accreditation

Even though some asbestos removal tasks, which involve low risk materials, can be performed by contractors without an HSE (Health & Safety Executive) license, it is recommended that your preferred option have the correct accreditation. This way, you’ll know for sure that they have been tested and approved to high standards by those responsible for ensuring asbestos health and safety is adhered to. A licensed contractor should only carry out the removal of higher risk asbestos containing materials, such as sprayed coatings, insulation, lagging and insulating boards. Here at Sperion, we are licensed and approved by the Heath & Safety Executive and also work with the Environment Agency as a Registered Waste Carrier.

Industry experience

Last but not least, you’ll need to find out how much experience your contractor has and whether they’ve built up a glowing reputation. Ask if they’re able to provide any reviews and recommendations or see whether they’ve carried out work in the local area. At Sperion, we draw upon in excess of 40 years experience gained at the highest level. Our directors and senior management have worked with virtually every project scenario imaginable concerning asbestos surveying, removal and disposal cost. Although we are based in Essex, we have provided safe asbestos removal at low cost throughout eastern and southern regions of the UK. So, as long as you choose an asbestos removal firm that quotes a competitive price, has industry accreditation and plenty of experience, your health won’t be at risk.

Asbestos is an incredibly dangerous and harmful material that may still be found in several residential homes and industrial premises. Thankfully, asbestos can no longer be used as a construction material, but any property built or refurbished before the year 2000 may pose a threat today. If asbestos containing materials are well maintained, in good condition and located where they are unlikely to suffer from damage, the threat of inhaling deadly fibres is low. But it is still beneficial to know about the different types of asbestos and which common building materials used to contain this mineral.

Ceiling, walls, and floor cavity

Loose fill asbestos was used to insulate residential and industrial premises, so is often found between cavity walls, under floorboards and in loft spaces. It is a loose and fluffy kind of material, which resembles candyfloss but is usually blue-grey or white in colour. This is arguably the most harmful material because it’s made up of pure asbestos and if disturbed can release a lot of fibre into the air, which can then be breathed in. Only HSE-licensed contractors should work with this material.

Lagging

Commonly found in or on heating systems such as around boilers or pipework. Although lagging has different appearances, it is a mostly fibrous material that flakes easily. Unfortunately, it used to be covered in a protective coating, making it more difficult to identify. Again, this is another extremely dangerous material, which should be removed and disposed of by a capable and accredited firm.

Sprayed coatings

On the underside of roofs and sometimes the side of buildings you’ll find a sprayed coating of asbestos insulation. However, it was also used as fire protection on steel, reinforced concrete columns and the underside of floors. It may have been painted over, but is typically white or grey in colour with a rough surface. Seeing as sprayed coatings are made up of 85 per cent asbestos and breaks up easily, even minor disturbances can release large quantities of harmful fibres into the air. This is yet another material best left to licensed contractors.

Insulating board

This fireproofing material is known as Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) but was also used for partition walls, lift shaft linings, ceiling tiles and panels below windows. Regrettably, it is quite difficult to tell the different between AIB and non-asbestos materials. Although non-licensed workers with appropriate instruction and training can carry out short duration work on AIB, this material often calls for a licensed contractor, as it is quite hard to identify.

Textiles and composites

Asbestos floor tiles were once quite popular in several buildings and may still be found hidden underneath carpet. Old fire blankets, heat resistant gloves, textiles in fuse boxes, toilet cisterns, windows sills and bath panels may also contain asbestos. Textiles and composites can be difficult to identify, so you may need to contact the building owner or research the material’s manufacturer. Non-licensed work is allowed on textiles and composites. Additional types of asbestos include textured coatings and cement products, but the aforementioned materials generally pose the most risk.

Even though Christmas is a time of year filled with joy and merriment, several Britons could be exposing themselves to asbestos by putting up old Christmas decorations. It is being reported that vintage baubles and other ornaments could contain this dangerous mineral because in the 1940s, fake snow was made from pure asbestos. When decorations are put up, asbestos could be disturbed causing deadly particles to be spread throughout unwitting households. Therefore, the UK Asbestos Training Association, the trade body responsible for safety from this material in homes and workplaces, is advising people to throw away old Christmas items that may contain fake snow. Here at Sperion, we typically assist commercial and industrial properties with their asbestos removal needs. But it is a big concern that normal households could be at risk from such a seemingly harmless thing.

Dangers of vintage decorations

More than fifty years ago, products such as Pure White, White Magic and Snow Drift were commonly used by manufacturers of Christmas decorations including wreathes, statues and baubles. While production of this white powder stopped when the Second World War started, as it was needed to insulate ships and aircraft instead, certain decorations still pose a threat. Numerous households keep hold of these treasured festive ornaments and put them up every year, as they are much more authentic and attractive than modern alternatives. However, they could potentially pose a serious health risk.

Risk from asbestos at Christmas

Craig Evans, manager of the UK Asbestos Training Association, said: “In the 1930s and 1940s asbestos was used in abundance to create fake snow – products called Pure White, White Magic and Snow Drift were common in department stores and even in people’s homes. “Households up and down the country may still have decorations from that era that they keep in the loft until Christmas comes round. “People might be completely oblivious to the fact that each year they could be running the risk of inhaling deadly asbestos fibres from their old decorations. “What’s more, it’s estimated around 1.5 million homes in the UK have asbestos in them and if people are storing Christmas decorations in their lofts underneath loose-fill asbestos insulation it could be dropping onto them.”

Identifying and then dealing with asbestos removal

Asbestos dust may settle on Christmas trees and other decorations, which will then spread through households when being put up or taken down. Evans goes on to say that it is impossible to know just how many people could potentially be exposing themselves to asbestos each Christmas, but he did have some advice. “Our warning is to replace any antique decorations that have fake snow on them with new decorations,” he said. “They might not look quite as nice but they are guaranteed to be safe. “Anyone who thinks they have asbestos-laced decorations should contact their local authority which can advise on how to dispose of them in the proper way. If you are concerned about your own Christmas decorations, contact Sperion, as we can provide help and advice about asbestos removal and disposal.

Widely used in the construction of residential and commercial properties from the 1950s until the late 1990s, asbestos remains an ever-present danger. If this material is disturbed or damaged in any way, deadly fibres can be released into the air and inhaled by unwitting individuals. Although symptoms might not come about for several years, inhaling asbestos can cause life-threatening illnesses such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening. As long as asbestos containing materials are well maintained, then there is no immediate risk. But seeing as it was commonplace in homes, schools and hospitals, in the form of ceiling tiles, pipe insulation and sprayed coatings, many right-thinking people are still concerned. So, if you’re a property owner or member of the general public, here is some advice and information from Sperion about asbestos.

Property owners

Property or building owners that are responsible for the maintenance and repair of non-domestic premises have a duty to manage any asbestos contained within. Non-domestic properties include industrial and commercial buildings such as shops, offices and factories. Public buildings like hospitals, schools, leisure centres and churches also come under this umbrella. As far as domestic premises such as private houses are concerned, it only applies to “common parts” of multi-occupancy premises such as purpose-built or converted flats. As a property owner, you’ll need to find out whether asbestos is present, make a record of its location, type and condition, and then conduct a risk assessment. From there you can come up with a plan, implement action, constantly monitor any remaining asbestos while notifying anyone who works on the property.

Members of the public

If you live in a property that was constructed or refurbished before the year 2000, asbestos could be present, as it was a common building material. However, if asbestos containing materials are kept in good condition and located in a place where they won’t be damaged or disturbed in any way, there is very little risk of inhaling deadly fibres. Even so, if you carry out some DIY or have tradespeople working on the property, there is a chance they will come into contact with asbestos containing materials, which can cause fibres to be released and inhaled. The majority of electricians, plumbers, carpenters or other similar professions should be aware of where asbestos is contained and how to deal with it. But if you definitely know that asbestos is present in your home, it is recommended to inform visiting workers.

Domestic property law

Although the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 is there to protect householders from work being carried out in the home, the control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 specifically concerns jobs that involve asbestos-containing materials. In domestic properties, owners are not responsible for risks to contractors from asbestos. This is because they aren’t carrying out the work themselves. Property owners and members of the public still concerned about the dangers of asbestos should contact Sperion, as we are experts in the surveying, removal and disposal of this dangerous material.

Despite the fact that asbestos is no longer used as a building material, it still presents a risk to several individuals. Every year, asbestos kills around 5,000 workers, which is more than the number of road fatalities. What’s more, around 20 tradesmen die each week as a result of past exposure, as it can often take a long time to develop associated illnesses or diseases. But once diagnosed, it can sometimes be too late to do anything, which is why knowing whether you’re at risk remains incredibly important. From surveying properties for this deadly mineral to asbestos disposal in a safe and regulated way, Sperion knows all about the potential dangers. Therefore, we know when and where people might be at risk from asbestos.

Working with asbestos

Seeing as asbestos was very common in buildings constructed or refurbished before the year 2000, several occupations may come into contact with the material during their regular routine. According to the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) the following professions could be a risk:

  • Engineers for heating, ventilation, and telecommunications
  • The construction industry – demolition workers, architects, building surveyors, and other such professionals
  • Tradespeople – electricians, carpenters, joiners, roofers and plumbers
  • Painters, decorators and plasterers
  • Fitters and installers of shops, gas appliances, fire and burglar alarms, computer systems and data centres
  • General maintenance staff e.g. caretakers

Not all lines of work are covered in this list, but if you regularly work in residential or commercial properties, there could be an element of risk which is why safe asbestos disposal is so important.

Level of risk

Any building or premises built before the year 2000 caries the greatest danger. What’s more, if you are unfamiliar with the site or haven’t carried out a risk assessment, there is a chance that asbestos could be present. If asbestos-containing materials were not identified before the job was started or found to be present but not dealt with by those in charge of the work, you should stop immediately and seek further advice. The same can be said if you do not know how to identify and work safely with asbestos or have not received appropriate information, instruction and training. You will also put yourself in great danger if you choose not to follow proper precautions and safety measure to save time or cut down costs when it comes to disposal of any identified asbestos.

Things to remember

Always bear in mind that:

  • You can’t see or smell asbestos fibres. It often requires a professional to survey a property before asbestos disposal can take place.
  • The effects of exposure can take many years to show up, but once symptoms do become apparent, certain illnesses can’t be cured.
  • In addition to asbestos exposure, you are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer if you smoke as well
  • Risk only exists when asbestos fibres are released into the air and breathed in. If you do not disturb or damage the containing material, you should be safe.

For more information on where you can find asbestos containing materials in residential and industrial properties, visit the HSE’s website.

In part one of Sperion’s frequently asked questions about asbestos article, we looked at the health risks associated with this dangerous material, how it can be identified and what to do if you suspect your home or workplace is at risk. In our second instalment, we will look more closely at the commercial and construction side of things. Several tradesmen and labourers might be coming into contact with different types of asbestos, which could be a cause for concern. However, Sperion is on hand to provide help and assistance should this be the case. If our answers to common queries don’t address the problems or issues you are facing, do not hesitate in contacting us for further guidance.

What should I do if I come across potential asbestos materials at work?

If you suspect you’re working with materials that might contain different types of asbestos, such as lagging, insulating boards, cement and textured coating, stop what you’re doing immediately. Determine whether asbestos is present or not and carry out a risk assessment. Non-licensed work on asbestos should only be performed if you have had the appropriate training and instruction. Otherwise the help of a licensed contractor is required. Your employer should let you know whether coming into contact with asbestos is a possibility in the first place anyway.

Should my employer provide protective clothing and equipment?

If there is a chance you’ll be exposed to asbestos, then your employer should provide you with adequate personal protective clothing. This can include overalls, gloves, footwear and respiratory protective equipment. These clothes and equipment are suitable for the majority of short duration non-licensed work. However, clothing should not be taken home while respirators must not be left in an area where they can collect dust.

Do I need a license for working with asbestos?

Not all work with asbestos materials requires a license, but there are certain instances where it is essential. For example, work with sprayed asbestos coatings, asbestos insulation or asbestos lagging does require a license due to the hazardous nature of these high risk materials. If you are coming into contact with these materials, then you should contact a licensed provider such as Sperion. We are a one-stop-shop service for surveying, testing, managing, removing and disposing of asbestos in a variety of working environments.

What should I do if I’ve been exposed to asbestos?

If you believe you’ve been inadvertently exposed to asbestos, you should consult your GP, who may refer you to a specialist in respiratory medicine. Due to the nature of illnesses caused by asbestos, it may take years for problems to develop and become apparent. But to prepare for every eventuality, make a personal record about possible exposure, which will include dates, duration, type of asbestos and likely subjection levels.

Where can I seek further help and advice?

Numerous resources about asbestos can be found on the HSE’s (Health and Safety Executive) website. But if you’d prefer speaking to an experienced and knowledge provider of asbestos removal and disposal, get in touch with Sperion.

Even though asbestos is no longer used in the construction of residential homes and commercial properties, it can still cause several problems if damaged or disturbed in any way. What’s more, individuals that have come into contact with asbestos in the past may yet suffer from certain illnesses and diseases, as it can take many years for problems to become apparent. However, companies like Sperion are on hand to provide asbestos disposal services. On top of that, we can conduct a free survey and provide no obligation advice about the options available to you. Seeing as we receive a number of queries on a daily basis about asbestos, here are some frequently asked questions answered.

What are the health risks from asbestos?

Responsible for over 5000 deaths every year, asbestos can cause a number of health problems. But the main risks are:

  • Mesothelioma – A rare form of lung cancer, which is almost always caused by exposure to asbestos.
  • Asbestosis – A scarring of the lungs, which is not always fatal but extremely debilitating.
  • Lung cancer – Usually apparent with individuals who smoke cigarettes as well.

How do I know if asbestos is present in my home or workplace?

Owing to the fact that asbestos used to be mixed together with other materials, it can be difficult to identify. However, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) have an online image gallery that shows a number of items containing asbestos. If you’re unsure, it is best to contact a qualified professional such as Sperion to see whether asbestos is present. If you move or modify the material to see whether it is in fact asbestos, there is a chance deadly fibres will become airborne, which can lead to health issues.

What should I do if my existing home or new property contains asbestos?

If you have looked around your property and believe that items such as lagging, water tanks, toilet cisterns, insulating boards, decorative coatings, floor tiles or textiles and composites contain asbestos, there are various steps you can take. First of all, do not try to repair or remove the materials if you do not have the appropriate training or license. If the materials are not damaged, then you should be fine. However, if you want to carry out some DIY or home improvements, then you’ll need to enlist the help of an asbestos disposal professional and let builders or contractors know that they could be at risk.

What should I do if my workplace contains asbestos?

If you work in an office or similar environment, there is a slim chance you’ll be affected by asbestos exposure. But if you have noticed damaged items that are known to contain asbestos, contact your employer about the problem. Those responsible for maintaining or repairing non-domestic properties such as landlords and facilities management companies are known as duty holders and are required to actively manage asbestos in buildings. But if you’re a tradesmen, maintenance worker or construction firm, read our second FAQs article to find out what to do if you come into contact with asbestos.