asbestos discovery

What to do if you find asbestos in your building

With all that we now know about asbestos related illnesses, it’s amazing to think that some asbestos containing materials were still being lawfully used in the construction industry as recently as the late 1990s.

Some types of asbestos were banned in the mid-1980s of course, but the use of some other types of asbestos, including white asbestos, continued until a total ban in the UK came in in 1999.

It should not come as a surprise then that there is a high risk of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) being found unexpectedly during renovation, refurbishment or maintenance works.

And it’s not just an issue in commercial buildings. Asbestos was widely used as an ingredient within decorative coatings like artex in many residential properties in the sixties, seventies and eighties, presenting a risk to contractors working in people’s homes.

Where is asbestos usually found in commercial buildings?

While asbestos containing materials can be found just about anywhere in a building, there are some places where there is a higher chance of coming across it.

Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB) was widely used as a fireproofing material and was often used within partition walls, fire doors, lift shaft linings, ceiling tiles, soffits, fuse boards, cement pipes and window panels, to name just a few.

The trouble is that it can be hard to distinguish between asbestos insulating board and normal building items such as ceiling tiles and plasterboard.

Due to this risk, it is important that construction and maintenance workers should receive asbestos awareness training on a regular basis.

What to do if you discover or disturb asbestos during a building project

ACMs or suspected ACMs can often be discovered if a proper survey has not been carried out prior to work starting, or if contractors go into areas which were not considered within the scope of the project.

If workers come across what they believe to be ACMs on a project they should:

  • Stop work immediately
  • Clear everyone out of the area
  • Tell site management, their employer and the building owner
  • Put up warning signs to prevent others entering the area
  • Prevent anyone not wearing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and Respiratory Protection Equipment (RPE) entering the area
  • Arrange of the suspected materials to be sent for analysis.

If the suspected ACMs have been damaged and spread about, there is more to do as clothing, tools, materials, and people may have been contaminated.

The HSE recommends waiting for official analysis of the materials to come back before resuming any work in the area so that the full risks can be determined, and all necessary precautions taken.

For further information, the HSE have published a guide to what to do if you accidentally disturb asbestos during your work which also includes a handy flow chart to help you decide what action to take.

For more information on managing asbestos risk in your buildings, or any other health and safety matter relating to your property, feel free to contact our team who can provide all the necessary advice on what to do.