£2bn Government gold rush could be an asbestos minefield

Commercial Photography from Pete Barnes

This autumn, the Government launched a new scheme to promote home insulation. It is subsidising home insulation ventures with grants of up to £5,000 which can be used to install insulation, double glazing, smart controls and more.

This is great news for the environment and for the economy however, we do have concerns about it.

When you get a Government-backed scheme like this, you get a flood of people jumping on the bandwagon who haven’t been in the game before but rush in to try and capitalise on the funding. Unfortunately, they won’t necessarily consider all the risks associated with doing so.

In this blog we want to give you some information about what needs to be in place for those types of works to be carried out safely in your property.

What are the risks?

Firstly, what asbestos can you get in lofts? This scheme actually covers domestic and commercial properties. A lot of public buildings will be included in this including schools, council offices and commercial buildings.

In a home loft you may find loose asbestos insulation has been used as loft insulation. This is 100% loose asbestos fibres, which have literally been tipped into the loft and that’s it. It is rare but there are instances of it. People living closer to coastal towns are more likely to have it in their properties, however, we’ve come across it in properties in Kettering and Northampton. This is the worst case scenario. Loose asbestos lying in the loft as insulation. There is no ceiling on it, nothing, just literally raw fibre. It is the highest risk asbestos material that you can come across. If you suspect that you have any of that in your loft, do not go in there – call in the professionals to help you manage that risk.

Next, down the scale are things like pipe insulation which is quite common within commercial and domestic lofts. You will find a pipe has been insulated with asbestos insulation and then over the years it’s forgotten about and can degrade and fall off.  You can also have problems if it’s been reinsulated. Fibre glass is pulled out and you can get debris underneath the fibreglass itself. This degrades over time and ends up on the floor and because repairs happen, a bit is hacked off and left to one side!

You may have asbestos insulating board being used as a fire break or on the back of a hatch door. It could be used as a platform to a water tank or you may find warm air heating lined with asbestos insulating board.

In some properties the actual ceiling or the floor of the loft is asbestos insulating. They are just raw boards with raw asbestos literally poking out of them.

Cement products are also very common in lofts. You can have cement roofs which can contain asbestos and cement water tanks. The most common asbestos product in lofts are cement flues, extending from the bottom half of the house right through to the loft and out through the roof.

What happens if something goes wrong?

Essentially anywhere in a loft, there could be asbestos. If works are carried out and something goes wrong and a house is exposed to asbestos the only way to make it safe for occupancy is to gut it. We would put an air lock on the front door, clean everything in the house that could be cleaned and anything that cannot be cleaned would have to go to landfill and be destroyed.

These schemes are brilliant for the economy and the environment but don’t go ahead without safety procedures in place to ensure that workers and all occupants of the building are protected.

How can you make sure you stay safe?

We are not talking about a huge cost here. Delivering a refurbishment survey of a loft in a domestic property isn’t going to cost thousands, it’s a few hundred pounds. To spend that so you know that you are safe and the workers are safe is a no brainer.

We’re a professional asbestos consultancy helping businesses deal with asbestos compliance using asbestos surveysasbestos air testing, and asbestos removal management. Please call one of the team, or use the online form to obtain your free quotation. If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and asbestos training, contact the team on 0844 818 0895 or Contact Us

Ian Stone

I am based out of our Northampton office but regularly travel to meet with new and existing clients. I have assisted thousands of clients over the years on varying sized projects, several have been schemes totalling over one million pounds spend purely on asbestos. Together with Neil Munro, I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I am Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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