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

Asbestos surveyor during a refurbishment survey

The Importance Of Safe Asbestos Disposal

Asbestos is dangerous. This is something that nearly everyone can agree on, due to the well-documented research on the substance which has shown that it can kill you if inhaled. So you would think that when it comes to the correct disposal of asbestos, people will take all of the steps required to ensure that … Read more

Reg 1

Call For Softer Asbestos Laws – What Impact Will it Have on Safety?

When designing laws that will protect everyone on a daily basis, people welcome strict and rigid enforcement, if it ensures that they and their families can go about their lives in a safe environment. However, when someone tries to campaign to make the laws on something less harsh, it can be understandably concerning. And that … Read more

Asbestos in school image

Asbestos in Schools – It Has To Go

When you send your child to school, their safety is one of the things that you entrust to the people who work there, having faith that they are charged by the government to help your children stay safe. However, there is something, which some schools would rather hide, and that is the growth of asbestos … Read more

Asbestos surveyor during a refurbishment survey

Asbestos Removal Tax Relief- Does it Qualify?

Asbestos Removal Tax Relief – Does It Qualify? When it comes to removing materials, which contain asbestos from a property, the expenses which can occur as a result of the asbestos removal can be extremely worrying for a company. However, what most people do not realise is that they can actually get some of that … Read more

asbestos in fire

Asbestos and Fire – What Are The Risks?

Asbestos is something which is a major health risk and can cause serious damage to the lungs and the respiratory system following exposure. However, asbestos and fire can make the material pose be a greater risk when damaged in this way. In order to try and help with this, we’re taking a look at some … Read more

Acorn Lower Service 32

What should the recent death of a lady with asbestos-linked cancer teach us about asbestos?

Last year, a Northampton woman died after a short battle with cancer that could have been caused by asbestos. It was an out-of-the-blue illness that was sudden – but could it have been due to asbestos exposure at home or workplace? Asbestos has serious risks Forget what you think you know about asbestos. It’s a … Read more

An asbestos refurbishment survey in action in Northampton

The importance of an asbestos refurbishment survey

Asbestos has been dubbed as a “silent killer” for years now, although it’s an unfortunate fact that it kills more people every year – through asbestos fibres being inhaled – than people who are in road traffic accidents. It has been banned in Britain since 1999, which means any house built or refurbished prior to … Read more

IMG 0527 Small

Asbestos Causing Delays

Asbestos causing delays once again. The A21 is a busy road linking Hastings, Tunbridge Wells and south east London. Works are currently being carried out on a 2.5 mile stretch to widen the road and improve routes to the coast. Bottlenecks were a regular occurrence close to Pembury and campaigners worked for years to get … Read more

What does asbestos look like

BBC Breakfast Interview Mesothelioma Patient, Trevor Barlow

On the morning of the 20th November 2015, BBC Breakfast News published the story of Trevor Barlow a 71 year old gentleman who had been diagnosed with terminal illness due to exposure to asbestos. The interview has encouraged others to consider the effects of exposure to asbestos and highlights the current government plans to assist … Read more

Acorn Analytical Services Asbestos Solutions commecial photography 150x150 1

Asbestos Priority Risk Assessment

Recognising the potential dangers of asbestos, leads owners to responsibly address any potential concerns about the building products used in the construction of their properties. Regulation 4 Duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises (CAR2012) requires dutyholders to ensure that “the risk of anyone being exposed to these materials is assessed”. This type of risk assessment is … Read more