Asbestos is a killer. This is a fact we know only too well having lost a friend recently to asbestos-related cancer. He was not the kind of person who worked alongside asbestos – he was an office worker, but lived in a house with asbestos in the walls as a child, and from that early age the die was cast.
That sad fact leads us to give asbestos the ultimate respect in dealing with it. If it is dangerous even in the relatively benign surrounds of a post-war family home, it is terrifying to think of the damage that can be caused by asbestos fibres loose in the air caused by the demolition or remodelling of a building.
The rules regarding asbestos and asbestos waste are tight, and they’re tight for a reason. Unfortunately, this very harsh handling regime means that unscrupulous people will cut corners with this deadly material, and there are regular incidents of fly-tipping up and down the country involving asbestos from building sites. Asbestos cement sheets – once used widely for roofing because of its fire-resistant properties – are regularly found dumped on waste ground, putting members of the public at risk from contamination.
The Health and Safety Executive has stringent regulations, and asbestos waste must be handled by licensed operators. If asbestos is found, a thorough risk assessment should be carried out, and the number of people with access should be restricted to as few as practical. Anyone dealing with disposal should refer to the HSE’s EM9 sheet, which lays out the law on its handling wherever you are in the UK.
HSE direction says all waste should be double bagged or double wrapped in stout plastic sheeting with the correct warning signs attached. If a skip is used, it must be one for asbestos waste only, and must be lockable. It is not acceptable to put waste – no matter how well wrapped – into a standard skip.
The best thing to do is to leave the job to professionals. They’ll know what they’re doing, have effective procedures in place, and will remove hazardous waste with skill and care to make sure no-one or nothing remains contaminated.
Deal with asbestos responsibly – lives depend on it.
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