Working with asbestos in hot conditions

hot conditions

You don’t normally think of the combination of asbestos and heat as a concern. Asbestos is resistant to heat – that is one of the reasons it was used in building projects. However, in this blog, we are not talking about the use of asbestos, we are talking about asbestos removal projects and how heat can affect the operatives involved in those projects.

Hot environments

Examples of hot environments could be boiler rooms, ducts and confined spaces – these places can be hot at any time of the year and if they are not insulated they can become even hotter.

If the existing insulation does not fully cover the pipes in the area, the temperature can increase, especially in confined spaces. When there is no insulation on a pipe, you can feel the heat literally radiating from it. It doesn’t take much to heat up a small space.

Other environments which can get incredibly hot include attics in Spring and Summer. Most people only go up in their loft over the Christmas period when it can be freezing, but in the Summer, with the sun shining on the roof, an attic can be a heat trap.

Working outside in the Summer next to glazed panelling in offices can also be very hot work. Working outside with asbestos enclosures is another example. Basically, you have built a mini greenhouse! It can get really hot in there because it is essentially polythene sheets and radiates the sun.

Why is heat a problem?

Heat can make asbestos enclosures fail. The sun and heat affects the glue and the tapes that hold the enclosures up. Basically, the glue and tapes degrade, don’t bond well and essentially melt.

There are other risks, such as hot pipes, as we said earlier. You may come into contact with steam pipes which can cause burns. First degree burns affect the outer layer of skin – even a tiny burn on your hand can stay around for a few weeks and scar. Full degree burns go through all the layers of the skin, deeper tissue, muscle and can affect the bones which is really nasty.

The main concern is heat stress. This relates to the working temperature for the people doing the job. Body temperature is around 36 to 37 degrees. If it rises above 38 degrees up to 40 degrees that could be fatal. To be clear we are talking about body temperature here, not outside temperature.

Signs of heat stress

There are several things you should look out for related to heat stress, including an inability to concentrate. You can also get muscles cramps, heat rash and even a slight increase in body temperature.

Severe thirst is a late symptom. By the time you feel this way, it’s not too late but it is the onset of heat stress which can lead to more severe problems such as passing out/fainting. If a worker faints and hit their head in a confined space you would need to shut the project down and close the site.

Other signs include exhaustion, fatigue, nausea and headaches. Headaches are quite common – if you get really hot it can cause headaches and then your skin can go from sweating to clammy all over. The way your body cools down is by sweating but if you are working in a boiler room with steam pipes it makes it harder for your body to cool down as the steam in the air cannot evaporate.

Heatstroke may cause severe reactions and can be fatal. Without a quick response to lower body temperature, heatstroke can cause your brain, or other vital organs, to swell, possibly resulting in permanent damage. You could fit, go into convulsions, lose consciousness and, without a prompt response and adequate treatment, even die.

What is the impact of working with asbestos in such conditions?

We’ve spoken about the hot environments that we might face but we haven’t yet addressed what it means to work with asbestos in such conditions. You need to remember that the types of activities you are carrying out has a bearing on what you will be wearing too.

Full coveralls, designed to prevent asbestos fibres penetrating, can get sweaty, then add to this gloves and boots. Respirators, in some cases, can restrict the face and the position that the operative will stand in. The masks are made from rubber and plastic which are horrible to have on when it is hot.

In addition to this you need to remember that most of the time asbestos removal is hard and vigorous work. At the minimum, it’s active work. For example, when you are hoovering an area, you may have to get into some funny positions to get to where you need to be, and this means you are expending more energy.

How can you reduce the risk?

The first and foremost thing is turn off boilers and pipes and eliminate the heat source. However, there are occasions where that isn’t possible. For example, if you are working in a school and they need to keep the heating on to keep the children warm. In these instances, try to reduce the heat and allow more air flow through air conditioning units. If you have an asbestos enclosure, try to introduce negative pressure and air movement into the enclosure to pull in fresh air, which can reduce the temperature slightly.

Air conditioning units are good because the air flow is guaranteed. You can place them at intervals and introduce air flow at much cooler temperatures to instantly reduce the temperatures within the enclosures.

See if external works can be planned to take place in the cooler periods of Spring and Autumn. Winter isn’t ideal as the glue holding the enclosures together can be broken down in the colder temperatures.

Another thing to consider is working times. How long can operatives work in those areas? Introduce regular breaks to ensure no one dehydrates. Have cool water available and encourage the operatives to drink frequently. It may be that operatives work in an enclosure for 15 minutes and then take 15 minutes out. This may make the job longer but if it’s needed to protect the operative’s health it must happen.

How can I make sure the risks are managed?

To do this, you will need to plan, carry out a risk assessment and monitor temperatures. Look at what each operative needs and make sure they have the necessary training to identify the risks and heat stress symptoms.

Training is essential as you can easily forget if you don’t do this type of work, day in day out. They need to have this information in the front of their minds to look out for each other. Also make sure you have emergency procedures in place and that everyone knows what they are so they know what to do in the event of someone suffering from heat stress.

Each person is individual, so what might affect one person won’t necessarily affect another and that is the problem. You can put procedures in place, but emergencies can still happen. You need to think how to evacuate people and what needs to happen next.

If you are looking at a big project, you may consider acclimatising individuals to that particular heat to build up their tolerance. You could start by working in small timeframes to get them used to the heat and build up from there.

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

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 Analytical Services asbestos surveyors Joseph Bell Daniel Crask at the Frank Bruno Foundation Centre e1618310393601

Acorn helps boxing legend to launch new centre

We are very proud to reveal we have been involved in an exciting new project to help create a new centre backed by none other than boxing legend, Frank Bruno. The Frank Bruno Foundation exists to provide support and the encouragement to succeed to those facing and recovering from mental ill-health. Its volunteers have worked …

Read MoreAcorn helps boxing legend to launch new centre

Asbestos artex testing 2

Asbestos Artex Testing – Textured Decorative Coatings

Why would you need asbestos Artex testing? First things first we need to explain that the word “Artex” is a trademark of Artex Ltd which is a company based in the UK. The word Artex is commonly used to describe a textured/decorative coating commonly used for interior decorating. Artex or textured coatings were frequently used …

Read MoreAsbestos Artex Testing – Textured Decorative Coatings

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res 135 e1617699112137

What does asbestos mean to me?

When we decided to launch the ‘What does asbestos mean to me?’ campaign, which runs alongside Global Asbestos Awareness Week this week (#2021GAAW), I was asked to answer the question and I couldn’t help but get reflective. I’ve never met anyone that dreams of going into the asbestos industry when they grow up and I was no different. In fact, …

Read MoreWhat does asbestos mean to me?

Ian Stone and Neil Munro What does asbestos mean to me 2021GAAW scaled e1617701400805

Campaign shines a spotlight on dangers of asbestos

One of the UK’s most experienced teams of asbestos experts is championing a global campaign which launches today to raise awareness of the deadly substance. Leading asbestos consultancy Acorn Analytical Services is backing Global Asbestos Awareness Week – which runs from April 1 to April 7 – with the launch of its own campaign entitled …

Read MoreCampaign shines a spotlight on dangers of asbestos

hammer 719061 1920 e1616677177737

Companies fined for failing to manage asbestos safely

We recently heard about a case of a construction company and a property management company being fined thousands of pounds after they failed to manage asbestos safely during the refurbishment of a former office block in Stockport. Last month, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that Manchester Magistrates’ Court heard Samer Constructions Limited had …

Read MoreCompanies fined for failing to manage asbestos safely

Collage e1608286815218

Mesothelioma – Hard to Say, Easy to Prevent

In recent months we have been privileged to support a dynamic new charity that is fighting to eradicate the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. ActionMeso launched last year to bring together mesothelioma patients with carers, healthcare and legal professionals, asbestos removal firms and construction companies. Together they want to raise awareness across the UK about this devastating …

Read MoreMesothelioma – Hard to Say, Easy to Prevent

Acorn Jan 2020 Low Res 166 e1615384829809

Acorn launches free asbestos advice surgery

When we say we’re committed to eradicating people’s asbestos problems we mean it! Which is why we’re excited to launch our asbestos advice surgery! In our day-to-day work we provide businesses with innovative asbestos management services which reduce their risk of asbestos exposure, prosecution and fines. We know that for many people asbestos feels like …

Read MoreAcorn launches free asbestos advice surgery

Sian Stone Dan Crask 2

Acorn employees put best foot forward for charities

You may remember a few weeks ago that we ran a guest blog by our Commercial Manager Sian Stone on her marathon effort to raise funds to tackle the asbestos-related cancer mesothelioma. Sian set herself the target of raising £200 by running at least 50 miles – or the length of nearly two marathons – …

Read MoreAcorn employees put best foot forward for charities

Rare disease day

Why Rare Diseases Day should be important to everyone

This Sunday, campaigners from around the world will unite their voices under the banner of the 14th annual Rare Diseases Day. This international event is coordinated by Eurordis – the voice of rare disease patients in Europe – every 28 February to raise awareness amongst the public and decisionmakers about rare diseases and their impact …

Read MoreWhy Rare Diseases Day should be important to everyone

Acorn Analytical Services Asbestos Solutions commecial photography 17

Tragic case reveals another dangerous aspect of asbestos

This month the dangers of asbestos hit the headlines once more but maybe not for the reason you might expect. Anyone who regularly follows our blogs or listens to our podcasts will know how hard we work to raise awareness about the dangers of asbestos-related diseases. Sadly, a case which came to court recently showed …

Read MoreTragic case reveals another dangerous aspect of asbestos