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Safe disposal and storage of asbestos a major issue in the UK

The problems associated with the disposal and safe storage of asbestos waste have been highlighted in the news recently. Plans to build a site in the north-east of England, close to a nursery and two primary schools, were quickly opposed by worried residents.

Concern for the children’s safety was the main driver for these complaints – asbestos is known to cause a number of life-threatening health issues from breathing difficulties to asbestos-related cancers.

What are the potential ramifications of building such a site close to a residential area?

It is intended that the company carrying out the work will use three skips in which to house asbestos waste materials. The skips would be placed behind concrete barriers, with CCTV cameras providing additional site security.

The dispersal of asbestos dust and fibres in the areas surrounding the site is the main focus for complaint. When airborne, the dust and fibres can be very difficult to identify, and it is feared that children would inadvertently breathe them in on a daily basis.

Local resident, Stephen Jennings, voiced his concerns over the intended site for asbestos waste:

“We have all heard of the dangers of asbestos, in a worst case scenario there is a breach of health and safety in the coming years and the children in the nearby schools will have to live with the respiratory problems for the rest of their lives.”

Health concerns for life

Exposure to asbestos is known to cause a variety of health issues from breathing problems to Mesothelioma, an untreatable form of cancer that attacks the outer lining of the lungs. Extensive use of the substance in the UK construction and other industries has resulted in residential and commercial buildings still harbouring asbestos in many different forms.

From lagged pipe work to asbestos insulation boards for partition walls, asbestos can be encountered anywhere within a building constructed prior to 1999. It was finally banned in the UK in 2000, but the death toll from Mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases has been high.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) statistics show that 2,538 deaths were caused by Mesothelioma in Great Britain in 2013 alone, an increase of 226 from 2011.

Buckinghamshire landfill site to include asbestos waste

Proposals to bury hazardous waste in a quarry within a former brickworks in Buckinghamshire have also been attacked by local residents. The land is intended to be returned to forestry and agricultural use, but the inclusion of asbestos has been something of a surprise for the villagers.

They claim that asbestos was not included in the original proposals, and a public meeting has been called so that everyone in the local area can express their concerns.

Asbestos training courses for workers and the self-employed

UKATA online training is now widely available in the UK. It teaches asbestos awareness to tradespeople likely to come across the substance in their normal line of work. Training generally takes around 90 minutes in total, and an HSE asbestos certificate becomes available to successful candidates.

If you’re a plumber, electrician, heating engineer, or carry out general property refurbishment, asbestos awareness training will keep you safe at work and allow you to meet the health and safety regulations laid down in law.