When carrying out building work, you may come across asbestos cement sheeting, commonly found as corrugated or flat sheets. You likely know about the health risks associated with asbestos, given that its use was banned in the UK in 1999. However, it was widely used at one time, and thus a lot of older buildings still have asbestos in the ceilings.
If you come across asbestos while undertaking construction, here’s what you need to know.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate mineral widely used in construction and other industries until the late 1990s. The three most common types in the UK are blue (crocidolite), brown (amosite) and white (chrysotile).
Asbestos is a great electrical insulator and is highly heat-resistant, which is why it was a popular material for buildings. However, it is now known as a health and safety hazard, and its use in construction is illegal in many countries, including the UK. Asbestos is composed of many microscopic fibrils that can be released into the atmosphere by abrasion and other processes. The inhalation of these fibres can lead to serious lung conditions and cancer.
It’s thought to have been used since the Stone Age and was only recognised for its health hazards around the 1970s, with many pre-1980s buildings thought to contain asbestos. The effects of asbestos inhalation can take decades to arise, but it is thought at least 100,000 people die each year from asbestos-related diseases.
Where Can You Find Asbestos
Asbestos was often used for insulation, flooring, and roofing. Asbestos cement sheeting was frequently used for rainwater pipes, roofs for garages and sheds, and textured wall and ceiling coatings.
If you come across asbestos in your construction work, you should stop work immediately to confirm whether it is asbestos and carry out a risk assessment. Removing the asbestos may require a licensed contractor, and you should only tackle non-licensed work on asbestos if you have the appropriate instruction and training.
How to Dispose of Asbestos
Asbestos is only dangerous when the fibres are released into the atmosphere, so if the asbestos cement is in good condition, it will pose no health dangers. But if it is in poor condition or damaged, it will degrade and release dangerous fibres into the air.
Prepare the work area by ensuring there is safe access and restrict the number of people present. Ensure you are wearing appropriate PPE such as disposable overalls fitted with a hood, boots without laces and respiratory protective equipment.
Cover nearby surfaces with 500-gauge polythene sheeting to protect them from contamination. When removing, avoid breaking the asbestos cement if possible. If fasteners are holding it in place, dampen and remove them. Use cutters to release any gutters, drainpipes or ridge caps etc., while avoiding contact with the asbestos cement.
Large pieces should be lowered to the ground, not dropped or put through a rubbish chute. All asbestos sheets or fasteners should be placed in an asbestos waste bag. Large pieces should be double wrapped in 1000-gauge polythene sheeting and sealed with duct tape. Attach asbestos warning stickers to the bags.
Clean any equipment used to remove the asbestos and check for any debris in the fastener or bolt holes. Any debris, used rags, used PPE, or other waste should be put in an asbestos waste bag and taped closed.
Standard practice is to use an inner red bag marked with asbestos warning labels that is then wrapped in a clear outer bag with appropriate hazard markings. Only a licensed disposal site should handle the disposal of asbestos.
In England and Wales, the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005 apply, so you need to complete a Hazardous Waste Consignment Note. For Scotland, the Special Waste Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2004 apply, and you need to fill out a Hazardous Waste Consignment Note.
Your local authority can provide details of your local licensed disposal site. When in transit with the asbestos, ensure it is moved in suitable containers that prevent the release of any asbestos fibres.
If you are looking for an effective roofing sheet replacement for your project, Bushbury Cladding can help. We can provide you with fibre cement roof sheets with excellent thermal insulation properties and which are resistant to fire damage and warping. We also have metal roofing sheets made from the finest British steel available in various widths, lengths, and thicknesses.
Do not hesitate to contact us to find out more about our roofing sheets and wall cladding products.