What is Asbestos? Here are some of the most Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions people pose about asbestos

What is asbestos?

What is Asbestos?

Asbestos is a highly heat-resistant fibrous silicate mineral which is made up of minute fibres measuring less than 3 microns long by 1 micron thick. Put into context, a human hair is between 60 and 140 microns thick.

Asbestos is used for a variety of purposes, from being woven into fabrics to being used in fire-resistant and insulating materials.  Examples of where it is often found include:

  • Asbestos insulating boards and lagging
  • Loose asbestos in ceilings or floor cavities
  • Asbestos cement products
  • Textured coatings
  • Floor tiles, textiles and composites
  • Sprayed coatings on ceilings, walls and beams/columns.

How and why is it used?

Owing to its incredible properties and strength, asbestos has been used in varying concentrations in thousands of separate products worldwide.  Characteristics and example applications include:

  • Strength (building materials)
  • Incombustibility (fireproofing)
  • Acid/alkali resistance (chemical plants)
  • Sound absorbency (soundproofing)
  • Heat/fire resistance (gaskets/fire doors)
  • Resistance to electrical current (flash pads)

Why is asbestos dangerous?

If inhaled, asbestos fibres are small enough to penetrate deep into the air sacs within the lungs where they cannot be expelled by coughing or sneezing. Due to the fibres’ chemical resistance and durability, the body’s natural defences (macrophages) cannot deal with them.

Over a period of between 15 and 60 years, long-term aggravation of the lung tissues may result.

Diseases associated with asbestos fibre inhalation include: Pleural plaques, Asbestosis, Lung cancer and Mesothelioma.

The Health & Safety Executive (HSE) has identified asbestos fibre exposure as the single greatest cause of occupational related disease in the UK. Asbestos inhalation and related diseases account for around 4,500 deaths each year in the UK.

There is no cure for asbestos related diseases. That is why asbestos removal, disposal and encapsulation is so important and is subject to tight regulation and compliance.

What does the law say about controlling asbestos?

The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012) was introduced to minimise the risk of future exposure to asbestos fibres, and also to consolidate a raft of previous Acts and Regulations specific to asbestos issues.

The duty to manage asbestos is also a legal requirement under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (Regulation 4) which updated previous asbestos regulations.

Regulation 4 of the CAR 2012 reiterates and emphasises the legal responsibilities of ‘duty holders’ to manage asbestos in non-domestic properties.

A ‘dutyholder’ is defined as:

(a) every person who has, by virtue of a contract or tenancy, an obligation of any extent in relation to the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises or any means of access there to or egress therefrom; or

(b) in relation to any part of non-domestic premises where there is no such contract or tenancy, every person who has, to any extent, control of that part of those non-domestic premises or any means of access to or egress there from, and where there is more than one such duty holder, the relative contribution to be made by each such person in complying with the requirements of this regulation will be determined by the nature and extent of the maintenance and repair obligation owed by that person.

What do I need to do to ensure I legally comply with safe management of asbestos?

Owners and occupiers of non-domestic premises, who have maintenance and repair responsibilities for those premises, have a duty to:

  1. Assess them for the presence of asbestos and the condition of that asbestos.
  2. Where asbestos is present, ensure that the risk from the asbestos is assessed
  3. Prepare a plan identifying where that asbestos is located
  4. Set out and implement on-going measures to manage the risk from the asbestos.

The team at WeldLag can ensure that you meet all of your legal obligations and that any asbestos in or on your premises is safely removed, disposed of or encapsulated.

How do I remove asbestos?

You need to appoint a licensed contractor for the safe removal of high-risk asbestos-containing materials such as asbestos insulation, lagging, sprayed asbestos coatings and most work involving asbestos insulating board (AIB).  The team at WeldLag can organise, manage and handle all this for you, ensuring that you are safe and meeting your legal obligations.

For further FAQs and useful information, visit http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/faq.htm