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Frequently Asked Questions
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral which has unique properties that make it useful in building construction. Asbestos was mined in Canada, Russia, South Africa, Australia, China, Kazakhstan and many other countries. Industrial use started in the 1870's and the first health concerns were raised in 1898. Asbestos use was banned in the UK in 1999.
Why was it used?
Asbestos fibres have numerous properties such as high strength, chemical & fire resistance, and good insulation properties. When added to other materials it was used to create very effective building products. It doesn't rot and products were cheap, leading to high use in the post war building boom.
Why is it dangerous?
When disturbed, asbestos fibres split down in to sub-micron particles which are easily inhaled and generally speaking, the body cannot breakdown these tiny fibres. Decades later debilitating diseases may develop such as asbestosis, lung cancer and mesothelioma. Approximately 100,000 people die per year from asbestos related diseases.
I have asbestos in my building, am I at risk?
If your asbestos is in good condition and is regularly inspected as part of your management plan, then in conjunction with appropriate air monitoring (as required), the risk from the material is low. However if the material is not monitored, or if it is disturbed, then you and other building occupiers could be at risk, and possibly subject to HSE prosecution.
Must I have my asbestos removed?
If the asbestos is in poor condition or is likely to be damaged by normal occupation or refurbishment works, then you must take action.
Why do I need a survey?
If you are responsible for maintenance or repair of your non domestic premises, you are legally required to manage asbestos, and have an assessment carried out as to the location and condition of asbestos materials. You must also have an asbestos register and a management plan and keep both up to date (at least annually).
Furthermore, if you do not have a survey, or if you are planning refurbishment works and do not have a relevant refurbishment or demolition survey, you must by law presume that all materials are asbestos until the survey is complete.
Use this tool to help you decide if you need a survey: Survey Decision Tool
What is a management plan?
A management plan is a document which sets out how you will manage the risk presented by asbestos in your premises. It sets out responsibilities, includes your asbestos register, tables of priority and timescales for remedial action, training requirements, timescales for review, and other key information to ensure asbestos is adequately managed in your premises.
Do I need Asbestos Awareness Training?
All workers who may disturb asbestos in the course of their work, or who supervise workers must have received asbestos awareness training. The HSE suggest that 240,000 workers regularly disturb asbestos in the course of their normal work. With this in mind, good quality competent asbestos awareness training by asbestos specialists is essential.
How often do I need Asbestos Awareness Training?
Asbestos training should be refreshed annually. We can provide initial asbestos training and annual refresher updates.
What is UKAS accreditation?
Laboratories carrying out analytical testing for asbestos must have accreditation. We use UKAS accredited laboratories to analyse our samples. This is available for surveying but is not essential. Surveyor experience and competence is most important for surveys, not UKAS accreditation.
What is a safe level of asbestos?
The Supreme Court suggests that any exposure above ambient levels carries a risk of harm, however the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 require employers not to expose staff to levels above the control limit (0.1 f/ml) and to keep exposure as far below this level as reasonably practicable. The Medical Research Council suggest that buildings containing asbestos in good condition have typical background asbestos fibre levels of 0.0005 f/ml. If you are purchasing reassurance monitoring you may wish to request this sensitivity.
Can I remove asbestos myself?
In the work place, certain asbestos products are licensed and must only be removed by licensed contractors. Other products are non licensed and may be removed providing that the operatives have had training, have a risk assessment and a method statement. Some of this work will require notification to the HSE. Contact us for clarification and training.