Monitoring asbestos materials in the workplace

asbestos materials in the workplace.

Current health and safety practices mean that asbestos materials found in the workplace are left alone if they are intact, but arguments have been made for asbestos monitoring practices to be altered.

Given that asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) naturally degrade over time, and many were installed thirty years ago or more, the risk of exposure to asbestos fibres could increase the longer they remain in place.

So how are asbestos materials currently monitored, and could more be done to protect health and safety, particularly with regard to vulnerable school children?

Monitoring of asbestos materials

Asbestos regulations impose a ‘duty to manage’ on owners and occupiers of non-domestic premises. This duty initially includes establishing whether asbestos-containing materials are present in a building and if so, keeping a record of their whereabouts and condition.

These obligations are generally met by way of asbestos management surveys, with regular reinspections taking place to manage the ongoing risk. Asbestos reinspections are generally undertaken on a yearly basis as a minimum, with previously identified ACMs being visually examined for damage and deterioration – through wear and tear or weathering, for example.

The risk of asbestos exposure for employees and visitors is then determined based on the results, but a question arises as to whether these practices are sufficiently detailed considering the nature of asbestos.

Should reinspection procedures routinely include asbestos air testing rather than just visually inspecting asbestos materials?

The danger of degraded asbestos materials

As asbestos materials degrade they can release tiny fibres into the air, which once inhaled, may cause life-threatening disease later in life. The latest figures show that 2,595 asbestos victims died from mesothelioma in 2016, with asbestos-related lung cancer deaths being placed at a similar level.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) believe asbestos-related mortality rates will fall during the next decade, but an unexpected scenario could emerge due to a combination of early asbestos exposure in schools where ongoing low-level inhalation of asbestos fibres takes place and increased life expectancies.

Asbestos materials extensively used in school buildings

Asbestos-related illness doesn’t generally manifest until several decades after the first exposure. This is why concerns are arising regarding the threat to children, given the prolific use of asbestos materials in school buildings prior to the asbestos ban in 1999.

Asbestos was used as an insulating and fireproofing material and is commonly present in classroom partition walling, ceiling and floor tiles, boiler rooms, and covering pipework around buildings.

Asbestos air testing may provide a more accurate view of the threat to health in any given area of a building, such as a school classroom or dining room. A more in-depth picture of the risk would emerge, and it’s possible that remediation works could be less costly for the local authority or building owner.

Acorn Analytical Services are professional asbestos consultants and can help you manage the risk posed by asbestos materials in the workplace. Among other services, we offer asbestos management surveys, reinspection surveys, asbestos air testing, and asbestos sample testing. Please contact one of our highly trained and experienced consultants to find out more.

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

Need Help? Request a Call Back

Request a call back from one of our expert Asbestos Consultants who will help you identify what you need

More Asbestos Articles

Acorn School Site 26 e1634213147938

School holidays are the perfect time for asbestos surveys

When you think of the upcoming October half-term holiday, asbestos surveys and asbestos-related works might not be the first thing that spring to mind. Fortunately, many schools and colleges wisely choose to use their breaks to get on top of their asbestos issues by organising asbestos surveys or carrying out works which – without the … Read more

Acorn campaign targets asbestos in schools.

Asbestos in schools to be tackled by new Acorn campaign

This week we were proud to launch a hard-hitting campaign targeting the issue of asbestos in schools. If you read our blog last week you will know that more than 20 years after the UK banned the use of asbestos here, it’s estimated that a high percentage of our schools still contain the deadly substance. … Read more

Is the UK ignoring its problem with asbestos in schools?

Is the UK ignoring its problem with asbestos in schools?

Did you know that the UK has a significant problem with asbestos in schools? More than two decades since the use of asbestos was banned in the UK, it’s estimated that eight out of 10 of our schools still contain the deadly substance. Throughout the 20th century, asbestos was used frequently by our construction industry, … Read more

National Mesothelioma Awareness Day c5810986 e1632385966395

Raising awareness about mesothelioma

This Sunday, Americans, their federal departments and agencies and their media are being called upon to observe the annual US National Mesothelioma Awareness Day with ceremonies and activities. Back in 2010, September 26 was earmarked by the US Congress as a special day to raise the American public’s awareness about mesothelioma and to encourage all … Read more

worker 6544391 1920 e1631783205514

UK house builder becomes first to divert asbestos away from landfill

We’ve heard some fantastic news about asbestos in the UK during the past few days. Leading developer Lovell has become the first UK house builder to actively tackle the challenge of asbestos waste. The firm is collaborating with Wolverhampton-based Thermal Recycling to safely package and convert asbestos waste into a safe and reusable cement substitute. … Read more

road sign 4244285 1920 e1631178843233

Asbestos causes a headache for constructor and neighbouring businesses

Asbestos hit the headlines once again this week when it brought a construction project grinding to a halt, closed off a town centre road and disrupted nearby businesses. The Stoke Sentinel has published an article sharing the frustrations of businesses in Piccadilly Arcade in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, who were unable to access their parking spaces or … Read more

surgery 3034071 1920 e1630572942721

Looking after asbestos will help us all breathe more easily

Many people have lives filled with work and family and 101 other activities that take up our days. So, today we’d like you to do something for us – just pause for a second and take a deep breath in and a deep breath out. Did you manage to do it? The average person takes … Read more

Acorn Samples 6 e1629960810872

Concerns raised about asbestos on British beach

Most of us love a seaside holiday but sadly one of Britain’s beaches hit the headlines last week for all the wrong reasons. You may remember that back in May we ran a blog on ‘Are holidaymakers in danger of finding asbestos on beaches?’ which highlighted a number of British beaches where asbestos had been … Read more

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res 49 e1629361953760

Acorn receives the backing of major organisations

At Acorn Analytical Services we are very proud of the wide range of asbestos management and training services that we provide. We are proud to say we’re a fully independent and impartial company and that clients can be confident that the results and recommendations they receive from us will always be in their best interests. … Read more

building plan 354233 1920 e1628755740921

Will planning reform put more people at risk from asbestos?

There have been lots of concerns raised in the national press recently about new planning reforms which mean a wider range of commercial properties can now be converted into flats. The reforms came into force at the beginning of this month in a bid to regenerate city centres which have struggled during the pandemic. However, … Read more