Fortunately, more and more people are aware of the dangers of asbestos. It is a potentially lethal material, but one which is found in a great many places. When you do find it, how is asbestos removed safely?
We’re experts in asbestos disposal, but we also know that handling this material has its serious risks.
Disposing of asbestos is one thing, but removing it safely is another.
What are the Risks of Removing Asbestos Illegally?
You should only remove materials with a high risk of containing asbestos if you are a licensed contractor for this type of work. It is a hazardous job, because of the risks involved.
As an employer, you could end up in court for failure to prevent exposure to asbestos.
Certain asbestos removal tasks are lower risk, where you do not need a licensed contractor for removal, but you should still take precautions all the same.
There are two categories of non-licensed asbestos-removal work, one of which is known as notifiable non-licensed work, or NNLW (Notifiable Non-Licensed Work).
In the case of NNLW, employers must meet certain additional requirements, including:
- Notifying the relevant authority about the asbestos removal
- Identifying the areas where the work will take place
- Making sure that medical examinations are carried out
- Maintaining relevant health records.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 give details of the requirements for licensed asbestos removal work, which includes most asbestos removal, such as:
- Sprayed coatings
- Pipe lagging
- Loose-fill insulation
- Asbestos millboard
- Loose or fine debris containing ACM dust
- Asbestos insulating board (AIB).
How Do You Know if you Need a Licensed Contractor?
For removal of any of the asbestos materials above, you should use a licensed contractor, or where the work involves more than low or occasional exposure to asbestos.
When you carry out a risk assessment of the work, if the control limit of asbestos is greater than 0.1 asbestos fibres per cubic centimetre of air over a four-hour period, then this will be licensable work.
Work which you can carry out without a licensed contractor is either non-licensed or NNLW.
Non-licensed asbestos removal work includes cleaning up debris containing ACM, if the work is low intensity and not continuous. It also allows for sealing-in asbestos-containing materials that are in good condition, and other types of maintenance work.
Materials containing asbestos that you can work with unlicensed include:
- Cement products
- Ropes and yarns
- Thermoplastic and vinyl floor tiles
- Roof felt, damp proofing coatings and mastics
- Felt and paper
- Plastic paint coatings, PVC floors and other sealing compounds
- Drive belts and cables
- Brake linings
- Asbestos insulating board – if only repainting it.
NNLW asbestos removal work includes:
- Asbestos cement products, such as roof sheeting, that have been broken up
- Asbestos paper and cardboard that is not firmly bonded in matrix
- Large-scale removal of textured coatings, beyond standard maintenance
- Asbestos insulation – if the work is of short duration or minor repair work.
What Asbestos Training Must You Have?
There are various levels of training for asbestos removal, depending on whether you are carrying out non-licensed work, NNLW or you are a licensed contractor.
Asbestos awareness training will give workers the information they need to avoid disturbing asbestos during normal work.
For non-licensed or NNLW handling and removal of asbestos, all involved should know how to make sufficient assessments, and what safe practices and control measures to take.
These include using appropriate safety equipment, waste handling and emergency procedures. They must also be aware of the legal requirements around working with and removal of asbestos.
There is no legal requirement for training at these levels, but many training providers will issue certificates.
For licensed asbestos removal, the contractor must be an asbestos licence holder. To apply for this, the contractor must have a formal HSE assessment, which will look at their level of training and knowledge, and that of their employees.
How to Remove Asbestos Safely
First, assess the risk. Is does the type of asbestos material allow for non-licensed or NNLW removal?
If the answer is YES to either of these, then take the necessary precautions.
Make sure anyone not involved in the removal is out of harm’s way. If it’s a home, for example, have the residents move out during the asbestos removal.
Wear the correct safety equipment:
- Disposable overalls
These should all be suitable for working with asbestos.
You will need the correct removal bags or sacks.
You must prevent any possible spread of fibres, so if you’re removing asbestos in the open air, do it when the weather is calm.
Dampen the asbestos surface to reduce the dust. Try to remove asbestos sheets as intact as possible.
Double wrap the asbestos you remove in plastic wrapping to seal it securely. Label it clearly.
All smaller pieces should go in an asbestos waste bag.
Do not attempt to sweep up or vacuum any remaining dust. Instead, wipe it with a damp cloth.
When you have finished, dispose of the protective wear and cleaning materials in the same way you dispose of the asbestos.