A Guide to Asbestos

Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK

We have put together a helpful guide on asbestos to provide health and safety advice and guidance, so that those who may be exposed to asbestos know what to do to protect themselves and others.

Asbestos Guide Contents

Our asbestos guide covers the following important elements:

Introduction to Asbestos

We provide an overview of asbestos, what it is and where responsibility for it lies.

As asbestos surveying, management and awareness experts, we are here to ensure you’re safe and compliant and help manage your asbestos issues

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a generic term for a type of naturally occurring fibrous silicate minerals. It is created by heat change or pressure within rocks.

There are several types – the three main ones are white (Chrysotile), brown (Amosite) and blue (Crocidolite).

Mined throughout the world, asbestos was imported into the UK for most of the 20th Century. Due to its versatility it was used in over 2000 different products.

The legal usage of asbestos products (other than some specialist areas) was ceased in late 1999.

On average for every 100 buildings on which we conduct an asbestos survey (built prior to 2000), we would expect to find asbestos products in up to 85% of them.

The health effects of exposure to asbestos are well known (Mesothelioma, Asbestosis). Asbestos related deaths in the workplace are still increasing. Legislation surrounding asbestos is strict and rightly so.

Flouting the law can result in heavy fines or custodial sentences.

Why Would You Require an Asbestos Survey?

There are a number of reasons why you may require an asbestos survey:

» To be compliant with Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

» If you were selling or buying commercial or residential property

» If you are exiting a lease

» If you were selling a business

» For a dilapidations report

» To audit an existing survey(s)

» If you were moving commercial property into a pension scheme (SIPP SSAS)

» If you had fire/flood damage to your property and the bank/insurance company requested a survey

Asbestos Register

An asbestos register is a record of the location of asbestos containing material and its condition.

An Asbestos Register is a Working Document Containing Information About Asbestos Presence

An asbestos register is a record of the location of asbestos containing material and its condition.

The register can be a plan or a diagram of the building, a written list or a computer based record.

The register should be easy to read and easily accessible – particularly if it is being used to tell workers about the location of the asbestos.

An asbestos survey report should incorporate an asbestos register to enable you to extract the information and use it as a working document.

Downloadable example of HSE Asbestos Register can be found on our Asbestos Resources page 

Asbestos Regulations

We provide details of the regulations, what are they and what you need to know to ensure compliance.

What are they and what do I need to know to ensure compliance?

What Does The Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012) Mean to You and Your Organisation?

R B Asbestos Consultants can ensure you and your organisation comply with The Control of Asbestos Regulations (2012).

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012) covers work with asbestos, prohibitions on the importation, supply and use of asbestos, and licensing of asbestos-removal activities.

Duty to Assess & Manage Asbestos

Regulation 4 of CAR 2012 places explicit duty on the owners or occupiers of non-domestic premises, who have maintenance and repair responsibilities, to assess and manage the risks from the presence of asbestos.

It is the responsibility of the ‘dutyholder’ (owner or maintaining leaseholder of the property) under current Regulations to commission an asbestos survey if required. The survey should conform to the HSG 264 (formerly MDHS 100) surveying standard.

Important Note Regarding Sub-let or Shared Ownership

Where properties are sub-let or have shared ownership there may be shared responsibility eg. in a shopping centre, individual shops may have a responsibly for their own units and the landlord for the common areas of the building (stairwells, roof spaces, lift shafts etc).

When an asbestos survey to a property outlines the presence of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM’s) the dutyholder has legal responsibility to manage the materials.

The ACM’s must be safe, sealed, labelled and robustly managed (a permit to work system may be required). Any implemented asbestos management system (a written document) should be reviewed annually (as a minimum) or following any significant changes, such as ACM removal.

Guidance on the duty to manage asbestos can be found in the Approved Code of Practice The Management of Asbestos in Non-Domestic Premises, L127 (PDF).

All Legislation, Approved Codes of Practice and Guidance Notes dealing with asbestos for the UK should be considered before undertaking any work with asbestos or asbestos containing materials.

Asbestos Related Illness / Disease

Some useful information about the diseases caused by asbestos inhalation.

There are Four Main Asbestos Related Illnesses and Diseases Associated With The Inhalation of Asbestos Fibres:

Asbestosis

Asbestosis is defined as lung fibrosis caused by the inhalation of asbestos fibres. Diagnosis is made on the basis of clinical features, X-ray appearances and a history of heavy asbestos exposure.

It is generally recognised that heavy asbestos exposures are required in order to produce clinically significant asbestosis within the lifetime of an individual. Current trends therefore still largely reflect the results of heavy exposures in the past.

Based on death certificates, where asbestosis is described as being the underlying cause, there were 216 deaths due to the disease in 2012 (the latest year with published data).
There were 493 deaths in total in 2012 where the death certificate mentioned the term “asbestosis”, and 29 of these are also included on the mesothelioma register because the death certificate also mentioned the term “mesothelioma”.
Disablement benefit cases for asbestosis have risen erratically since the early 1980s, with the trend increasing strongly from the late 1990s through to the middle of the new millennium. The number of cases for 2012 is 900.

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma is a formerly rare form of cancer which affects the pleura (the lining of the lungs) and the peritoneum (the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract). In the majority of cases mesothelioma is rapidly fatal following diagnosis so mesothelioma death statistics give a clear indication of the disease incidence.

Mesothelioma is closely related to asbestos and many cases, particularly among men, are a result of exposures in occupational settings.

However, mesothelioma has been reported in some individuals without any known exposure to asbestos. The long delay between initial exposure to asbestos and death from mesothelioma is typically between 25 and 50 years. This means that deaths occurring now and most of those expected to occur in the future reflect industrial conditions of the past rather than current work practices.

The total number of mesothelioma deaths has increased from 153 in 1968 to 2535 in 2012.

The most frequently recorded occupations on death certificates of men now dying from mesothelioma includes carpenters and joiners; plumbers, heating and ventilating engineers and electricians and electrical fitters.

The expected number of deaths amongst males is predicted to increase to a peak of 2038 (90% prediction interval: 1929 to 2156) around the year 2016.

Asbestos-Related Lung Cancer

Asbestos has been recognised as an important risk factor for lung cancer for many years. However, there are a number of other agents that can cause the disease – most importantly, tobacco smoke – and lung cancers resulting from asbestos exposure are clinically indistinguishable from those caused by these other agents.

This means that the total number of asbestos related lung cancers has to be derived from statistical estimates based on evidence from epidemiological studies rather than direct counting of individual cases.

It is likely that there are around as many asbestos related lung cancer deaths in Great Britain annually as there are mesothelioma deaths. There were 2535 mesothelioma deaths in 2012.

There were 285 recorded new cases of disablement in 2013 due to asbestos-related lung cancer and 86 reports of lung cancer in the THOR scheme, not all of which were asbestos-related. These numbers are substantially lower than the likely annual total number of deaths inferred from the number of mesotheliomas.

Diffuse Pleural Thickening

The pleura is a two-layered membrane which surrounds the lungs and lines the inside of the rib cage. Some asbestos fibres inhaled into lungs work their way out to the pleura and may cause fibrosis or scarring to develop there.

This causes the pleura to thicken and this may show up on a chest X-ray or CT scan. Pleural thickening occurs in two forms:

Diffuse pleural thickening extends over a large area and may restrict expansion of the lungs, leading to breathlessness; and
Pleural plaques are localised areas of pleural thickening, that don’t usually interfere with breathing.

Diffuse pleural thickening is another disease associated with exposure to asbestos.

There were 430 new cases of disablement in the year 2013 due to this disease, although this figure is likely to be a substantial underestimate.

The annual number increased during the 1990s but has remained fairly stable over recent years. The increase may be partly or wholly explained by the acceptance of claims under the Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit (IIDB) scheme for unilateral (affecting only one lung) cases and other changes in data collection methods.

An estimated 856 cases of benign (non-cancerous) pleural disease – mostly attributable to asbestos – were seen for the first time by occupational and chest physicians in 2009.

Asbestos Removal

We offer information on removing asbestos, what is involved and the considerations you must undertake.

R B Asbestos Consultants do not undertake asbestos removal. However, we can offer advice and a hand holding service through any removal project.
Do You Require Asbestos Removal From Your Property? What is Involved?

Asbestos removal generally falls into one of three categories. These are dictated by the type of asbestos, likely exposure and the CAR 2012 Regulations.

Ensure you comply with the all the requirements of the CAR 2012 Regulations.

Removal by a Licensed Contractor

The more dangerous asbestos products with a propensity of greater fibre release such as pipe insulation, sprayed coatings and asbestos insulating board (AIB) should only be removed by a licensed contractor and require a 14 day notification period to the HSE (the enforcing authority) prior to commencement of any removal works.

Removal by a Trained Contractor

Asbestos products with a lower risk of releasing fibres such as cement sheeting, floor tiles or textured coatings (Artex) require a trained contractor to conduct the asbestos removal. This type of contractor will be fully trained in this type of asbestos removal and will use all the appropriate protective equipment.

Notifiable None Licensed Work (NNLW)

Notifiable none licensed work is a particular category of none licensed work that imposes extra requirements on employers.

An example of this type of removal could be a larger sized contract with Artex coatings, within a building that are damaged. The removal can be conducted by a trained contractor as long as the appropriate controls are implemented and the contractor informs the HSE via their online process.

Further Information

If you require more specific information on asbestos removal or contract management, we can help.
For further information, please contact Paul Gallagher or Greg Byrne on 01282 427672.

Where Do You Find Asbestos

In the Workplace

We know asbestos was used in workplaces for most of the 20th century. The number of products thought to contain asbestos is estimated in excess of 3000.

What kind of products contain asbestos?

A good starting point is to look at the property of asbestos as this gives us some clues to places we may find it.

Heat protection: Asbestos is a great product for insulating and keeping heat in, or preventing heat (fire) from getting to other products. Pipes, boilers and heaters all used asbestos in different forms to keep heat within: Pipeboiler insulation (Photo) and panels inside heaters (Photo)

Fire protection: A key property of asbestos. Think of areas of a building where you want to prevent fire from getting to, within the building’s steel frames, doors, staircases and risers. Asbestos boards were used to protect against fire. Ceilings, roof areas, firebreaks and wall panels all used similar materials.

Asbestos has excellent binding properties: You can mix asbestos with other products to make them stronger and have a level of fire protection such as an Artex type coating, floor tiles, bitumen, and roof felt. We find asbestos products throughout our built environment. The heaviest use was between 1950-1970. We find asbestos extensively in residential properties.

It’s important to remember that it is difficult to recognise asbestos without training. Even for experienced surveyors, some products only show asbestos content following laboratory analysis.

Some asbestos products are safe by ‘design’ in that the asbestos is well bound in a matrix. Other products are friable and easily allow fibre release.

There are many more building products with varying amounts of asbestos contained within. If in doubt assume the product contains asbestos, and always make sure a survey is in place before you start work (if the building was constructed before 2000).

The HSE website is an excellent representation of where you may find some of the asbestos products in a commercial property.