Working with asbestos brings many complications and there are many risks which need to be assessed and actions are taken to reduce those risks. However, asbestos removal in hot conditions can pose a significate risk to the health of the workers involved.
Examples of asbestos removal in hot conditions
Asbestos removal quite often happens in locations which are not the nicest of places. Quite often though these places can be affected by temperature and that they are hot or can become hot. Examples of hot places or locations are:
- Boiler rooms and plant rooms
- Service risers
- Ducts and confined spaces
- Attics/lofts in summer
- Working outside in summer e.g. polyethene asbestos enclosures
- Glazed rooms e.g. green houses/summerhouse/ conservatory-style buildings
What is the issue with asbestos removal in hot conditions?
Essentially it is the heat and what effect that has on the body. Normal human body temperature is 37°C but does vary slightly. Body temperature may be 0.6°C above or below which can even vary throughout the day depending on what you’re doing and the time of the day. A body temperature above 40°C can be fatal without urgent attention.
The body can cool itself even if the temperature is hotter in the environment than body temperature. However, during asbestos removal, this process can be impeded by the very nature of the active working and by the RPE (Respirator Protective Equipment) and PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) that are required to be worn to complete the works safely. Sweating can also be impeded in high hot moisture areas i.e. hot steam rooms.
What other risks do you need to consider when working in hot areas?
Heat or hot items can pose additional risks and problems during asbestos removal and with asbestos enclosures.
The heat can cause asbestos enclosures to melt or even fall down. Generally, asbestos enclosures are constructed using polythene sheeting, cloth adhesive tape and on occasions the use of spray adhesive glue. At raised temperatures, the adhesives can melt causing the enclosure to collapse.
Additional hot risks can come from the heat sources themselves. Such as steam pipes or heating pipes which bring a risk of serious burns from a first degree where only the outer layer of the skin is affected up to fourth-degree burns where burns go through the layers of the skin and affect the deeper tissue affecting the muscle and bone.
What are the symptoms of heat stress during asbestos removal?
Heat stress can affect individuals in different ways, and some people are more susceptible to it than others.
Typical symptoms are:
- An inability to concentrate
- Muscle cramps
- Heat rash
- Severe thirst – a late symptom of heat stress
- Heat exhaustion – fatigue, giddiness, nausea, headache, moist skin
- Heat stroke – hot dry skin, confusion, convulsions and eventual loss of consciousness. This is the most severe disorder and can result in death if not detected at an early stage
What can you do to reduce the risk during asbestos removal in hot conditions?
Firstly, can you eliminate the risk from the heat? Can you turn off the boilers thus eliminating the heat source. Can you postpone the works until winter or a time when the location will be cooler?
If you cannot eliminate the risk, then you will need to reduce the risk as far and as low as possible.
Examples of this could be to:
- Introduce greater airflow into the enclosure with additional negative pressure.
- Introduce air coolers or conditioning units to lower the temperature
- Reduce working times and introduce regular breaks. Prevent dehydration by supplying cool water and encourage works to drink frequently.
- Ensure the operatives are adequately trained. Advise on the risks of heat stress, what the symptoms to look out for safe working practises emergency procedures.
If you would like help with your next asbestos removal project, call our highly experienced asbestos removal project managers at Acorn Analytical Services.
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