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

Asbestos training tutor, Daniel Crask

Asbestos training has never been more critical for your workforce

DESPITE being banned from new buildings in 1999, asbestos is still all around us which is why Acorn Analytical Services takes its commitment to education and asbestos training so seriously. By raising awareness of the potential dangers of asbestos through our UKATA-accredited asbestos awareness training courses, we aim to protect your workforce from the dangers … Read more

Cutting corners with asbestos could be costly

Tempted to save money with asbestos management? It could prove to be a costly mistake

WITH talk of a looming financial crisis everywhere at the moment you might be tempted to cut come corners in a bid to save yourself some money. But when it comes to managing asbestos, or anything to do with health and safety, not doing things by the book also comes at a price. Ian Stone, … Read more

Asbestos is common in many older buildings

It’s been banned for over 20 years, but we’re still living with asbestos

LOOK up at any old building in any town or city near you and it’s highly likely it will contain asbestos. First used more than 4,000 years ago, asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral used by early settlers in Finland to strengthen earthenware and cooking utensils. It came to Britain from Canada in the 1860s … Read more

Asbestos kills 20 tradespeople in the UK every day

Asbestos kills 20 tradespeople every day. Make sure you aren’t one of them

There is no room for complacency when it comes to handling asbestos as the latest figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show. Despite being banned in the use of new buildings since 1999, the building material, which was hugely popular in the 1950s and 1960s, is still a huge problem in older … Read more

Steve McQueen died from mesothelioma

Two cultural icons, one silent killer – mesothelioma

HOLLYWOOD actor and ‘King of Cool’ Steve McQueen and former manager of the Sex Pistols Malcolm McClaren – both global, cultural icons but, tragically, also victims of asbestos-related mesothelioma. Each year in the UK, 2,400 people – that’s six people every day – die from mesothelioma, a cancer which is caused by exposure to asbestos … Read more

Mesothelioma

Mesothelioma: How much do you really know about the disease which kills 2,400 people every year?

If you’ve heard of asbestos, chances are you’ve almost certainly heard of mesothelioma. But do you really know what it is and would you know how to protect yourself, your colleagues, and your loved ones from developing this silent killer in the future? What is mesothelioma? According to charity campaign ActionMeso which is run by … Read more

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