Asbestos Disposal – What Building Companies Need to Know

Asbestos Disposal – What Building Companies Need to Know

21st November 2016

Asbestos disposal is a confusing issue for many small building companies in the UK – we all know that asbestos is a dangerous substance that must be handled carefully, following the correct procedures.  With asbestos present in so many buildings that were constructed before its ban in the UK in 1999, building companies that undertake small repair and refurbishment projects need to consider the possibility that asbestos is present before work begins. 

First of all you need to determine if asbestos is present and this is easier said than done.  You can’t identify asbestos just by looking at it – you’ll need to find a label.  If you’re not sure, then treat the material as if it could contain asbestos and leave it alone. 

You can have an accredited asbestos professional inspect the project for asbestos containing materials if necessary.  If they do find ACMs, then you will need a licensed professional to remove the ACMs if they are damaged in any way.  If the ACMs are not damaged and you don’t need to disturb them in order to complete repairs or remodelling, then they are best left alone.

Asbestos cement can be removed by the builders without any special licence.  However, there are some safety tips to follow in order to ensure that the procedure does not present any health risks.

·         Keep people out of the area in which you are working.

·         Wear a suitable disposable face mask to make sure you don’t inhale any fibres.

·         Wear suitable disposable clothing such as a boiler suit and gloves.

·         Remove the materials whole wherever possible in order to keep dust to a minimum.

·         Damp down the material with water and keep it wet throughout the procedure – this will minimise the dust.

·         Use hand tools rather than power tools (which tend to create a lot of dust during use).

·         Keep your work area clean and tidy.

·         Cover any surrounding surfaces with disposable dust cloths/plastic sheeting so that clean up is quick and easy.

·         Wipe up any residues with a damp cloth and dispose of the cloth along with the asbestos cement.

·         Double bag all the waste to be removed in heavy polythene bags, label them and dispose of them safely.

·         You can find information on where to dispose of this waste on your local authority’s website.

If you come across an asbestos problem that you cannot handle yourself, then it’s time to call in the professionals.  If there are any asbestos containing materials that are damaged (even slightly) or could be disturbed then it will need to be removed or sealed. 

Sealing (also known as encapsulation) involves treating the asbestos containing material with a sealant that will either coat the material so that the fibres are not released or that seals the fibres together.  This is often suitable for pipe, boiler and furnace insulation and should only be done by a qualified professional who has been fully trained in the safe handling of asbestos.

If removal of the ACMs is necessary, then this is a task that can only be done by a licensed asbestos remover.