Asbestos is a fibrous material which was used in the past to add strength to the buildings. However, in 1930 asbestos poisoning was discovered in the labourers working in asbestos mines. Discovery of asbestos intoxication led to the industry regulations for the protection of workers, but the use of asbestos materials was not banned entirely until 1999 in the UK. However, most buildings constructed before 2000 contain toxic compounds of asbestos.
As per the guidelines of The Concrete Society under Eurocode, a building can have a life cycle of 50 years or more depending upon its preservation. According to these guidelines, many buildings constructed before asbestos banishment in 1999 must not have completed their life cycle.
If you own a commercial building that was built before 2000, there is a big chance of asbestos materials being used within its construction material. So you need to identify if this is the case so that you can comply with current legislation, which state that you have a duty to manage any asbestos materials within a non residential property. In order for you to be able to do this, you need to first have it identified, and that is where the need for an asbestos survey to comes in, to confirm its presence.
Risks associated with Asbestos Exposure
Asbestos is a compound mineral, and it causes life-threatening complexities to the exposed persons. Asbestos sheets do not pose a risk if they are undamaged and in a good condition. However, due to climatic conditions and accidental damage, asbestos sheets release non-decomposable microscopic fibres. These fibres are inhaled and travel to the lungs of the exposed persons and being non-decomposable they remain in the lungs and over time cause damage. Every year more than 5000 people die due to different types of asbestos toxications.
- Mesothelioma is the deadliest cancer of the lungs and 2500 people die every year in the UK due to mesothelioma. Along with the lungs, mesothelioma could also affect other organs of the exposed persons. Cancerous mesothelioma cells take a form of a thick layer over the lungs and other affected organs. Cancerous cells divide at a faster pace than healthy cells hence restricting the normal functions of the affected organs.
- Asbestosis is caused by inhaling fibres and dust particles from damage asbestos sheets. Asbestos ash causes irreversible scarring of the lung tissues. Due to the alveolar scarring of the lungs, the affected person experiences difficulty in breathing. There is no medicine to cure asbestosis completely. However, its symptoms can be managed by regular treatment.
- Asbestos cancers mean different types of cancerous activities in a human body, caused by the swallowing of asbestos ash. Along with mesothelioma and alveolar scarring, asbestos ash is also found to cause cancerous tumours in other organs of the affected persons. Asbestos is linked with laryngeal cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hematolymphoid cancer. In females asbestos exposure can also cause ovarian cancer.
- Benign asbestos conditions can be caused due to the slightest exposure to the asbestos dust. It includes pulmonary fibrosis, pleural effusions, peritoneal effusions, pericardial effusions, pleuritis and pleural plaques. People exposed to minor quantities of asbestos dust can develop these life-affecting conditions.
Asbestos Regulations For Commercial Properties In UK
According to the British Lung Foundation, 38 workers (plumbers, technicians, electricians, joiners) die each week by getting exposed to asbestos. Asbestos exposure is a serious threat to human health, and the UK government has clear regulations for asbestos management in commercial buildings. In the case of the mishandling of asbestos, the responsible person can face a penalty of up to £20,000 and 12 months imprisonment.
Why you need Asbestos Survey?
Asbestos is a banned substance to use in construction these days. However, the buildings constructed before 2000 are suspected of having asbestos-containing materials or ACMs. Asbestos surveys help in identifying the ACMs (Asbestos Containing Materials) and risks associated with them. An asbestos survey is the first step of the Asbestos Management Plan. Furthermore, the right asbestos survey is mandatory to comply with the “Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012”. These are the most common types of asbestos surveys.
- Asbestos management survey
- Pre-demolition asbestos survey
- Asbestos refurbishment survey
- Limited asbestos survey
- Asbestos screening
- Soil surveys
Different types of asbestos surveys are designed to examine the asbestos content in a building and its surroundings. Asbestos surveys conducted by experts are also helpful in devising a strategy to handle the removal of hazardous asbestos-containing objects safely.
Asbestos management surveys conducted by professional surveyors are safe and can be done without disturbing the routine work in the buildings. These surveys can also be done to check the asbestos penetration in air, soil, water and food of the premises being surveyed.
However, asbestos demolition and refurbishment surveys are conducted before starting the construction and repair process. The greater amount of asbestos ash can be released during the construction and demolition works, and that’s why an extensive asbestos survey is conducted first. Refurbishment and demolition surveys are intrusive in nature. Asbestos surveyors may have to breakdown certain walls and parts of the surveying building. That’s why the premises under scrutiny must be vacated before these surveys can take place.
HOW OFTEN DO I NEED ASBESTOS INSPECTION for my building?
According to regulation 4 of Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012, the duty holder must take adequate steps to stop the asbestos infiltration in premises under his control. However, the frequency of inspections depends on various factors.
- Asbestos Management Plan: It is a great strategy which is made to counter the harmful effects of asbestos and its particles. If you are looking forward to formulating an asbestos management plan, a detailed survey of accessible and inaccessible parts of the building is required. An inspection for an asbestos management plan is usually carried out once.
- Routine inspections: Once asbestos management plan has been put in place, there will be systematic inspections to check the condition of ACMs. Routine asbestos inspections are carried out at regular intervals of 6 and 12 months.
- State of building: Older buildings constructed way before 2000 may need more re-inspection surveys than buildings built near to 2000.
- Personal preferences: Asbestos re-inspections are mandatory at the interval of 6 and 12 months as per the 2012 regulations. However, a few people prefer to keep a record of the ACMs more frequently.
- Time of last asbestos inspection: If you can’t remember when the previous asbestos survey took place in your building — then it may be time to have one carried out.
Disclaimer: Asbestos is a hazardous material, and it can cause life-threatening conditions. Any attempt of the asbestos inspection without expert help must be avoided!