5 January 2009
Asbestos was used extensively as a building material in Great Britain from the 1950's through to the mid-1980's. It had many uses and was ideal for fireproofing and insulation. Any building constructed before 2000 (houses, factories, offices, schools, hospitals etc.) could contain asbestos.
Asbestos is made up of thin fibres, if in good condition asbestos materials are safe, but when the materials are damaged the asbestos fibres can become airborne.
The smallest asbestos fibres cannot be seen with the naked eye and are only dangerous if they are made airborne and breathed in, but ALL types of asbestos fibres are potentially fatal if breathed in.
Working on or near damaged materials containing asbestos or breathing in high levels of asbestos fibres, that may be many hundreds of times that of environmental levels, could increase the chance of getting an asbestos related disease. Around 4000 deaths a year result from the serious diseases that are caused by fibres of asbestos being inhaled.
There are three main diseases caused by asbestos:
These diseases can take from 15 to 60 years to develop and there is no cure for any of them, so you need to protect yourself now to prevent you contracting an asbestos related disease in the future. People who smoke and are also exposed to asbestos fibres are at a much greater risk of developing lung cancer.
DO NOT work if you are unsure whether asbestos is present. Your manager or the customer should tell you whether it is. If they have not - ask them or your safety representative.
DO NOT work if:
DO NOT disturb asbestos if you can help it.
Only work with asbestos if: