When safely bound up within construction materials, asbestos presents very little risk. It is only when the fibres are disturbed that the risk emerges, as the fibres can be breathed in and cause a range of serious or fatal health conditions. For this reason, it is essential that all commercial property owners know whether there are asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) on their premises and where these are located, so that the materials are not inadvertently exposed to people who are unaware of their presence.
Asbestos duty holders and facilities managers have a duty of care towards their staff, their customers, and their visitors, and this includes preventing or reducing exposure to asbestos as far as reasonably practical. However, you are not legally obliged to remove ACMs if they don’t pose an active risk, and exposure can occur even if you take precautions, begging the question “how is asbestos treated in the workplace?”.
How To Avoid Asbestos Exposure
Sealing or enclosing the asbestos-containing material is the most common option. The Health and Safety Executive has outlined several different asbestos treatment plans based on the type of asbestos product identified.
– If asbestos is found in cement products, it’s best to avoid abrasive treatments to minimise the risk of fibre release, and instead go for alkali-resistant and water-permeable sealants.
– If sprayed asbestos materials are slightly damaged, they can be treated with encapsulating paints. If they’re not damaged, sealing is the best option.
– Asbestos found in pipe or boiler lagging can be left if in good condition and managed. However, where asbestos insulation products are slightly damaged, they can also be treated by encapsulating the materials.
– In insulating or millboard materials, asbestos can be treated with special elastomeric paints providing a seamless coating, as long as the materials have only sustained slight damage.
– If textured coatings are involved, the treatment involves sealant paint, but in some cases no treatment is required.
– Other asbestos-containing materials, like paper or fabric may be left untreated if the damage is minimal however, this would be based upon risk assessment.
In all cases, extensive damage to the ACM will require removal and safe disposal.
Please note that if a professional asbestos survey identifies asbestos in your workplace, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your employees are in danger. In some cases, it is safer to preserve the ACMs in situ. However, if asbestos containing materials are discovered, it’s your duty to take the relevant action and ensure that your employees are safe while at work.
1) Develop An Asbestos Management Plan
Surveyors and asbestos consultants can help you put together a comprehensive management plan and determine whether asbestos should be preserved in situ or removed in a way that complies with the current regulations.
2) Asbestos Awareness Training
To ensure your employees’ risk of exposure is reduced as much as possible, you can also provide specialist asbestos training. Training can help your employees understand the risks posed by asbestos and educate them on how to prevent exposure through the correct identification of risky materials and the procedure to follow if this happens.
An asbestos sampling and management professional should always be your first point of contact, whether you believe or know your premises could contain asbestos, want more information about how to manage it properly, or wish to provide staff training.
Professional Asbestos Solutions From OMC Consultants
OMC Consultants have been delivering thorough, responsive, and compliant asbestos risk management solutions to businesses and public sector organisations for more than 30 years. Contact us today to discuss your concerns.
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