The short answer is no, and yes. We all think of asbestos as a fibrous material found in the roofs of old sheds. This is true, but also shows us that people just aren’t educated on asbestos in the way that they probably should be. This goes for businesses, too.
There are six types of asbestos and they can be identified by their colour variations; blue, white, brown and green. In the late 19th century asbestos was commonly used as a resistant to fire and electricity. We poured it into our cement mixes, crammed it into our walls for insulation and at the time it seemed like the best thing since sliced bread (not that it was invented just yet!). It wasn’t until the 20th century, many buildings later, that we realised although asbestos was a fantastic material with wonderous properties, it was a fatal material which we had all invited into our homes and workplaces.
Asbestos causes lung cancer, mesothelioma and asbestosis. While there is no available cure for asbestosis, treatment of mesothelioma and lung cancer has shown very rare cases of survival. Unfortunately, although the use of asbestos was completely banned in the UK in 1999, it can take some staggering 40 years to show any symptoms with the average being 20 years. This means that although banned in 1999, it is very likely that we will continue to see asbestos-related deaths until at least 2039.
Here at ASI Environmental we hear many naïve judgements about asbestos that just aren’t true. “We’re not builders, we work in an office so we’re not at risk”, “we’d know if we had asbestos in our walls, we’d see it” and “we work at a hospital, do you really think there’d be such a dangerous material at a place like this?” are just some of the scary conversations we have with our customers on a regular basis. You are correct in thinking the risk is lower to you if you do not work in a role where it is not unusual to come across asbestos, but completely ruling yourself out of the potential dangers is tempting fate. You’d be surprised where we find asbestos and how close of a proximity it is to people who “just work in an office”.
The main reason we say you need not be concerned with asbestos is because in most cases, if it is not disturbed, it’s not usually a problem. If you’re planning on doing a refurbishment or demolition, you’ll need a type 2 asbestos survey – this is different to your type 1 survey. The survey is carried out because you could be at risk of disturbing asbestos and exposing it anyone working on the project. Not only is this irresponsible on moral levels but also if asbestos is later found without a survey, you could face a £20,000 fine and imprisonment up to 12 months.
If you’re not sure if you’re responsible for managing asbestos in your building or workplace, check your contract or lease. If you own the building or manage commercial properties for a landlord, you could be responsible for managing asbestos. Check your building is built before November 1999 and ensure you’ve had an asbestos survey done for peace of mind. ASI Environmental are a nationwide UKAS accredited asbestos testing company with our own in-house laboratory. We can offer you free, friendly advice and an asbestos survey to get that all important task checked off your list.
Give us a call today 0330 100 0881