Asbestos in UK Construction

9th February 2024

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral fibre, was widely used in the UK construction industry for its heat resistance, durability, and insulating properties. However, it poses significant health risks, leading to its ban in the UK in 1999. In this article, we will explore the history of asbestos in UK construction use, its safe treatment and handling, the dangers associated with exposure, and the proper disposal methods to ensure the safety of workers and the environment.

Historical Use of Asbestos in UK Construction Use

Asbestos has a long history of use in the construction industry, dating back to the late 19th century. Its versatility and affordability made it a popular choice for various applications, including insulation, roofing, flooring, and fireproofing. Its widespread use continued until the late 20th century when the health risks associated with asbestos exposure became evident.

Health Risks and Dangers

Exposure to asbestos fibers can lead to serious health issues, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis. The inhalation of asbestos fibers is particularly dangerous as they can become trapped in the lungs, causing long-term damage. Workers in the construction industry, especially those involved in demolition, renovation, and maintenance of older buildings, are at a higher risk of asbestos exposure.

It is crucial to understand that the health risks associated with asbestos are not immediate. Symptoms may take decades to develop, making it challenging to detect and diagnose asbestos-related diseases. Therefore, it is vital to adopt strict safety measures to prevent exposure and protect workers’ health.

Safe Treatment and Handling of Asbestos

To ensure the safe treatment and handling of asbestos, several regulations and guidelines have been established in the UK. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 sets out specific requirements for managing asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) in non-domestic premises.

Before any construction or demolition work, a thorough asbestos survey must be conducted to identify the presence of ACMs. If asbestos is found, it is essential to engage licensed asbestos removal contractors to safely remove and dispose of the material. These contractors have the necessary training, equipment, and expertise to handle asbestos safely.

Encouraging Asbestos Awareness

Raising awareness about the dangers of asbestos and promoting safe handling practices is crucial in preventing exposure and protecting workers’ health. Employers should provide regular training to their employees, educate them about the risks, and ensure they have access to the necessary protective equipment.

In Summary

Asbestos, once widely used in the UK construction industry, poses significant health risks and requires careful handling and disposal. By understanding the history of asbestos use, implementing strict safety measures, and following proper disposal procedures, we can protect workers’ health and prevent environmental contamination. It is essential for employers, workers, and the general public to remain vigilant and informed about the dangers associated with asbestos, ensuring that it is safely managed and eliminated from our buildings and construction sites.

Asbestos in Construction. Workers handling corrugated asbestos roof panels.

Asbestos Disposal

The disposal of asbestos waste is a highly regulated process in the UK. Asbestos must be double-bagged in heavy-duty polythene bags, clearly labelled as containing asbestos, and securely sealed. These bags should then be transported and disposed of at licensed asbestos waste disposal facilities.

Individuals or businesses handling asbestos waste must ensure that they comply with the Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations and use authorized carriers for transportation. It is illegal to dispose of asbestos waste in standard waste containers or landfill sites not licensed to accept asbestos.

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Workers involved in asbestos-related tasks must receive proper training and follow strict safety protocols, including wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as respiratory masks, coveralls, and gloves. Adequate ventilation and containment measures should be in place to prevent the release of asbestos fibres into the air.

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