Asbestos, Lung Disease and Health and Safety In Warehousing
What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a material made up of a number of naturally found components to make a highly efficient insulation and fire-retardant element, widely used in the construction of homes and businesses across the world. Now completely illegal in the UK since the 1990’s, asbestos is no longer used in new build or refurbishment of any sort, but it is still found quite regularly in older buildings in particular, but can feasibly be found in anything built 1980’s-1990’s and prior, which many warehouse facilities are.
The main uses for asbestos and where can most likely be found are:
- Floor tiles
- Ceiling tiles
- Cement roofing
- Thermal Insulation
- Pipes and boilers
- Asbestos Insulating Board – AIB – used for fire protection, thermal insulation, partitioning and duct work
Should you be worried about asbestos?
Managed properly, it is safe to occupy a building where asbestos is present. The danger lies in its deterioration, which will inevitably come over time or by incorrect removal and disturbance, for example, builders drilling into walls where asbestos insulation has been used, or roof repairs on asbestos ceiling tiles or cement. Due to the fibrous nature of the materials, breaking them up and allowing the spores to enter the air puts humans in danger of asbestos inhalation which can cause cancers and lung disease.
Newly released statistics from the latest Health and Safety at work Summary Statistics for Great Britain 2019 from the HSE report an estimated 12,000 lung disease deaths a year are linked to past exposures to at work, and 2,526 Mesothelioma (lung cancer caused directly by asbestos) deaths with a similar number of linked cancer deaths related to past exposures to asbestos in 2017. Scary, and absolutely not something you want to find in your facility, putting your employees at risk.
How will I know if I have asbestos?
You cannot smell asbestos, nor can you see the fibres with the naked eye. Also, rather dangerously, asbestos containing materials, or ACMs as they are often referred to, do not look different to non-asbestos containing materials, and so when all considered, it is very difficult to know if you have asbestos without professional guidance.
The best route is to have a survey or inspection done, particularly if your facility or any part of it, was built in the 1940’s or 1960’s when it was at its most prevalent.
Your inspections and removals should be carried out by certified asbestos removal contractors and surveyors, with the appropriate CSCS cards and accreditations to make sure all offending material is found and removed prior to any new works being done. A professional body such as the Asbestos Removal Contractors Association (ARCA) would be able to support you in this.
When can work start on the warehouse?
Once your facility has been signed off, works can be carried out. Nene surveyors and inspectors will carry out a fully comprehensive survey of the building, checking over the existing set up and to work out the best design and workflow. Should they find asbestos in any part of your facility and if you have not been through an asbestos check, Nene can support you in resolving the issue in order for their works to continue, resulting in a safe, high quality and innovative warehouse solution.
At Nene, our friendly team of expert advisors are on hand to help with any questions you have about your specific requirements and can visit your site to help you determine your exact requirements.