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

Sam Savage Commercial Director

Commercial Director Sam Savage talks about his first 3 weeks

Last month we announced Sam Savage had joined Acorn Analytical Services as our Commercial Director, working out of the Northampton office and covering the South of England. Sam joins the business from an another asbestos consultancy where he worked for more than 20 years, working his way up from a trainee right through to contracts … Read more

Asbestos Awareness Training

Asbestos Awareness Training – the importance of practising what we preach

At Acorn, we work hard to educate everyone about the dangers of asbestos. One of the ways we do this is through our UKATA accredited Asbestos Awareness training courses. Being a UKATA Approved Training Provider not only demonstrates that Acorn Analytical Services is committed to delivering the highest standard of asbestos training, it also means … Read more

Have you ever wondered what the consequences could be if a company fails to protect workers from asbestos exposure?

Asbestos exposure risk leads to jail sentences

Have you ever wondered what the consequences could be if a company fails to protect workers from asbestos exposure? At Acorn, we work hard to educate the public about the dangers of asbestos which remains the world’s biggest workplace killer. When asbestos is disturbed it releases tiny fibres into the air which can cause a … Read more

MPs want asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings within the next 40 years.

MPs fight for asbestos to be removed from public buildings

Last week, MPs called for all asbestos to be removed from public and commercial buildings within the next 40 years. The Government’s Work and Pensions Select Committee wants the asbestos to be removed because the substance remains the biggest workplace killer in the UK with around 5,000 deaths linked to it every year. Even though … Read more

During Global Asbestos Awareness Week charities and organisations around the world will be working hard to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos which remains the globe’s biggest workplace killer.

Hitting back at hidden killer during Global Asbestos Awareness Week 2022

Today marks the start of Global Asbestos Awareness Week. Between now and April 7, charities and organisations around the world will be working hard during Global Asbestos Awareness Week to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos which remains the globe’s biggest workplace killer. In the UK, the use of asbestos was banned more than … Read more

Acorn Analytical Services is proud to be helping women to #BreakTheBias.

#BreakTheBias – International Women’s Day 2022

Today, Acorn is incredibly proud to be supporting International Women’s Day. The United Nations began marking the global event back in 1977 and the day is now recognised as the focal point in the movement for women’s rights. This year means a lot to our diverse team at Acorn because the theme for 2022 is … Read more

International Women's Day Emma

International Women’s Day 2022

To mark International Women’s Day, we wanted to introduce you to a couple of Acorn Analytical Service’s fantastic female employees. The asbestos industry – like the construction industry in general – is a male dominated sector but at Acorn we are fortunate to work with several brilliant female employees, including asbestos analysts, asbestos surveyors and … Read more

Do you ever stop to think about whether you could be exposed to asbestos in your home?

Workers exposed to asbestos during refurbishment

Do you ever stop to think about whether you could be exposed to asbestos in your home? During the 20th century asbestos was used heavily by the UK’s construction industry and even though its use has been banned for more than two decades its legacy lives on in our homes, garages, workplaces and public buildings. … Read more

Rare Disease Day is held every year on February 28 to raise awareness and generate change for the 300 million people worldwide living with a rare disease

Rare Disease Day 2022

Did you know that Rare Disease Day is taking place on Monday? Rare Disease Day is held every year on February 28 to raise awareness and generate change for the 300 million people worldwide living with a rare disease and for their families and carers. More than 600 events will be taking place across the … Read more

The Government’s Work and Pensions Committee has been carrying out an inquiry into the HSE's approach to asbestos management

Asbestos management inquiry held by Government

Over the past few months, the Government’s Work and Pensions Committee has been carrying out an inquiry into the approach of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to asbestos management in buildings. There are six million tonnes of asbestos in the UK, most of which can be found in more than 1.5 million buildings across … Read more