Exposure to asbestos is the single greatest cause of work related deaths in the UK, with an average of 20 workers dying per week. These figures include tradesmen like plumbers, electricians and joiners. Asbestos is still a very real danger here in the UK despite the 1999 ban on the use and import of chrysotile asbestos.
It’s tempting to think that because of the ban that asbestos is no longer a problem – but that would be a totally incorrect assumption to make. Asbestos is present all over the UK in buildings (both public and residential) constructed before this date which means that most homes in the country may contain asbestos containing materials (ACMs). The need to be vigilant is ever present for both homeowners and business owners alike.
There is a new website called Take 5 and Stay Alive that has been launched by the British Lung Foundation in order to educate and inform workers and their families on the risks involved with working with asbestos and how to minimize those risks. For those who work with asbestos there is a particular risk of the whole family being affected by invisible dust that could be brought home on clothing. If you don’t work with asbestos, there is still a risk, especially for those who are keen on DIY in the home.
If you’re considering doing any work on your home, then unless it was built after the year 2000 you will need to take asbestos issues into consideration. Before starting on a DIY project it’s essential to take some important safety measures to minimise the risk to both yourself and your family.
Asbestos comes in all shapes, colours and sizes and was often mixed with other materials meaning that it can be difficult to determine whether or not asbestos is present in the area you intend to work in. There’s a pretty good image gallery of the Health and Safety Executive website that you can check to help you recognise where asbestos could be present.
If you do find asbestos or ACMs in your home, then unless they are damaged or deteriorating, it’s best to leave them alone. If you should disturb asbestos, then it’s essential that you get in touch with a licensed contractor immediately so that they can remove and dispose of the asbestos safely. Don’t be tempted to clean it up yourself – asbestos waste should only be handled by a licensed disposal site and it must be transported to the disposal site in a suitable container that prevents release of the fibres to the atmosphere during transit.
If you’re having work done in the home by trades people, then don’t assume that they will be totally au fait with asbestos and the risks involved. As the building owner, it is your responsibility to protect trades people from exposure to asbestos fibres.
The Take 5 and Stay Alive website has some useful resources and advice for DIY enthusiasts and home owners and it’s vital that you check out the information and advice there before doing (or hiring a tradesman to do) any remodelling or refurbishment to your home.