Asbestos had been used in the building process for the decades, it was the material of choice from the 1900’s owed to its high resistance to heat and its ability to insulate. However asbestos has slowly been phased out since the 1970’s and the use and import of asbestos is now prohibited in many countries, this is due to the health problems associated with the substance. Severe health conditions such as mesothelioma and asbestosis are directly linked to exposure to this dangerous substance. Due to this there are thousands of cases of asbestosis compensation made every year by workers exposed to this dangerous material.
Asbestos related illnesses usually have a relatively long latency period (time required for symptoms to show/arise) and because of this people who were exposed to asbestos 15+ years ago are only now developing chronic illnesses. Around 4500 people die per year from asbestos related illnesses meaning that asbestos has the single highest work related fatality rate in the county. This has lead to an influx of work related asbestos compensation claims. Not all people who suffer from asbestos related illnesses suffer due to work.
So what do you do if you find asbestos in your home? In most scenarios finding asbestos is not something to worry about. This is because asbestos has usually been mixed with other materials and once processed is relatively ‘safe’. If you find damaged materials which you believe may contain asbestos you should take action to ensure the safety of yourself and others.
When you first discover damaged materials that could contain asbestos you must keep everyone else out of the area. You should then inspect yourself to see if you have any dust or particles on your clothes. If this is the case it is advisable to move away from the material to prevent any further exposure. Once you have done this you should shower making sure that you wash your hair. Any contaminated clothes/ towels should be placed in plastic bags and taken to a specialist laundry service. You should then get a sample of the material in question, (this should be taken by a professional who is qualified in handling asbestos) and ask for it to be sent off for testing. There are a number of DIY asbestos testing kits but it is not advisable to attempt this yourself.
If the material tests positive for asbestos there are a number of steps that should be taken that will dictate how the asbestos should be dealt with and if you should be contacting a professional that is trained to work with asbestos or if you will need to go further and speak with a HSE-licensed contractor to assist you with the removal.
You will need a HSE-licensed contractor if:
- There is loose asbestos, asbestos coating, badly damaged asbestos insulation boards or insulation.
- The work will require 2 or more hours per week to correct.
- The work requires a single employee to work for longer than 1 hour per week to correct.
You will be able to seek out a non-licensed contractor if:
- The asbestos insulation board is in a relatively good condition.
- If the asbestos is within a object such as a gasket, floor tile or a textile.
- If the work required can be completed without a single person working with the asbestos for more than 1 hour per week.
Please note that nearly all work related to asbestos (including all asbestos removals) need to be noted to the enforcing authority so that they can keep a record of all the workers and ensure that they have had the relevant medical checks.
Finding asbestos in your home is not the end of the world and if dealt with correctly, it should not pose a threat to anyone within the household’s safety or well-being.