Nobody in the UK can be in any doubt about the dangers of asbestos nowadays. Despite the total ban here in Britain back in 1999, we are still seeing so many cases of asbestos related diseases being diagnosed as it can take up to 30 years from the date of initial exposure to asbestos for symptoms to start appearing. Because asbestos was used so extensively in the construction industry in the UK, asbestos is likely to be present in homes and buildings across the UK and will need dealing with for many years to come. If you’re a homeowner and need to know more about asbestos and safe methods of dealing with it, then this article is for you. If you’re planning to undertake any refurbishment or repair work around the house, then you need to determine whether or not asbestos is present and, if it is, what to do about it.
Asbestos can be difficult to identify – you’ll need to look for a label that says Asbestos. If you’re dealing with material and you’re not sure what it is, then it’s best to treat it as suspect and leave it alone if possible.
If the refurbishment or repair work you intend to do is absolutely necessary then it is worth getting an accredited asbestos professional to come and check the materials. If asbestos or asbestos containing materials (ACMs) are found you will need to hire a licensed professional to remove the materials and dispose of them according to current legislation. If the asbestos or ACMs are undamaged and you don’t need to disturb them in order to complete the work you intend to do, then it’s best to leave them in place.
A home owner can legally remove asbestos cement without a special licence – however there are safe working procedures that you will need to follow in order to minimize risks:
- Cover the work area with disposable dust cloths or plastic sheeting which will make the final clean up quick and easy
- Keep people and pets well away from the area where you are working
- Wear a disposable face mask to ensure that you do not inhale any fibres
- Wear suitable disposable clothing in order to remove the asbestos cement (a boiler suit and gloves, available in B&Q or other DIY centres)
- Try to remove the material whole to keep the dust to a minimum
- Dampen the material with water to minimise the amount of dust – keep reapplying water throughout the procedure in order to keep the material damp at all times
- Don’t use power tools as they create a lot of dust which will pose a health risk – instead use hand tools at all times
- Wipe up any dust and residue with a damp cloth which can be disposed of along with the asbestos cement when the job is finished
- All of the waste material should be double bagged in heavy polythene, then labelled and disposed of according to your local authority guidelines
Don’t forget that if you have any doubts at all about the materials which you are dealing with, the safest option is to call in the professionals for advice on whether the materials need to be removed and disposed of by licensed contractors.