What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the generic name for a group of fibrous silicate minerals found in the ground. For centuries, it has been prized for its ability to withstand heat, fire, and chemical reactions. When completely intact, there’s little long-term damage to worry about in terms of health, but unfortunately, when these materials are damaged, these microscopic asbestos fibres break apart easily and become a serious health hazard when breathed in.
These asbestos-based carcinogens have been linked to many serious respiratory conditions, including asbestosis and mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive lung cancer. After asbestos exposure, it may take decades to experience effects, which makes asbestos even more dangerous and difficult to work with.
Is all asbestos the same?
There isn’t ‘one’ type of asbestos. In fact, there are six varieties of asbestos that occur in nature (actinolite, amosite, anthophyllite, chrysotile, crocidolite, and tremolite). Barring chrysolite, the remaining five are amphiboles, dark-coloured minerals that are more needle-like in shape, as well as harmful.
Chrysotile asbestos is thought to comprise the majority of the asbestos in roofing, walls, and floors, as well as pipe insulation and boiler seals. Though it can be an unhealthy and unwanted discovery in any home or building, a great deal of research has shown that chrysotile exposure takes longer to develop asbestos-related diseases than its amphiboles cousins.
Where can I find asbestos?
Asbestos is incredibly common, and without a doubt, we’ve all been around it at some point in our lives. If you are exposed at low levels, you needn’t have much to worry about. If you do regular home remodeling and construction, however, you’ve almost certainly come across much higher levels than the average person.
The use of asbestos in shingles, floor tiles, pipes, and insulation was a tremendous advantage for fire prevention. Due to their fibrous and durable composition–asbestos was also woven into cloth for heat-resistant uniforms, used to create commercial products like automotive parts and cement compounds, and is still used today to produce much of the chlorine in bleach and disinfectants.
Is asbestos legal in the UK?
Since 1985, chyrsotile was the only type of asbestos allowed in the UK, and imports and manufacture of asbestos products were entirely banned in 1999. Chrysotile-based products are not necessarily illegal though, as those purchased before the ban date can be used until the end of their service life.
What does asbestos look like?
The most common asbestos looks quite a bit like fluffy balls of attic insulation. With the wide variety of commercial products produced with asbestos, however, it can be quite difficult to detect asbestos in homes. Cement garden sheds, textured ceiling tiles, and even house siding or cladding were built using these minerals.
How do I identify asbestos?
If you live in a home or apartment built before 2000, you are likely to uncover asbestos-based products in some way, shape, or form. It isn’t always obvious if something contains asbestos, because many modern materials have been created to look the same as their older counterparts. Remember that anything made before 1999 could very well contain asbestos, and should be treated with caution, especially if it has been damaged in any way.
Check the label
In 1976, British manufacturers were required to label all asbestos-based products. If you have doubts, are missing the label, or believe that the item was made prior to 1976, a simple manufacturer search online should be able to inform you whether or not the product contains asbestos. If you’re still not sure about the material, you can contact local laboratories for asbestos testing.
Speak with neighbours
Often, houses built in the same area contain much of the same building components. Rather than knocking a hole in the wall to check the insulation, neighbours living in similar homes may be able to tell you what materials they’ve uncovered.
What should I do if I find asbestos?
In the home, asbestos materials which are in good working condition are often left alone. This is because asbestos removal can cause increased levels of fibres in the air. However, be sure to examine these products every now and again to monitor what kind of shape they are in. If they are starting to break, wear down, or splinter, and you lack Asbestos Licensing, contact your local HSE office, or a firm with current Asbestos Licensing to handle the issue.
Hiring construction professionals
Should you hire any builders, construction workers, or contractors, be sure to notify them of possible asbestos-based products used in the domicile.
Because of the dangers associated with asbestos inhalation, in 1983, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) passed legislation that mandated that all contractors who work with asbestos insulation must receive proper awareness training.
Do I need asbestos awareness training?
Due to current awareness of this carcinogenic material, nearly all asbestos-related work in the UK is safely carried out by licensed tradespeople and professionals. Not only is this necessary for those living around these materials, but proper training keeps workers’ health protected as well.
What kind of training do I need?
The Control of Asbestos Regulations of 2012 requires employers to provide sufficient training for employees who are likely to be exposed to asbestos. Please note that this requirement also applies self-employed individuals.
Asbestos awareness courses should be recognised by UKATA, the governing board that sets standards in asbestos training and monitors asbestos awareness courses throughout the nation.
What are the differences between categories A, B, and C?
In the United Kingdom, there are currently three training categories available:
- Asbestos awareness (also known as Category A)
- Non-licensable work with asbestos (Category B)
- Licensable work with asbestos (Category C)
The intent of Category A asbestos awareness training both online and in the classroom is to inform workers and professionals who may stumble upon asbestos-laden materials during their average working day.
Category B is intended to inform tradespeople (like roofers, plumbers, electricians, general maintenance crews, etc.) who may possibly disturb asbestos-based materials during their typical working day.
Category C training is suitable for those physically extracting asbestos-laden materials from buildings. Workers must have received sufficient instruction, training, and must use proper respiratory and protective equipment before being allowed to carry out licensed asbestos work.
Sign up for asbestos awareness training
At Bainbridge, we focus on Category A asbestos awareness training. We utilise relevant updates and on-site experience for our trainees, and pride ourselves on doing our part to protect the health and safety of UK residents.