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Step by step guideline to asbestos removal

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Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber that is historically used in thousands of products due to its durability and heat resistance.

Despite its beneficial properties in construction, asbestos poses severe health risks, such as lung cancer and mesothelioma, when its fibers become airborne and are inhaled.

Identifying asbestos is not easy since it cannot be seen or smelled. It requires specialized testing. The common places to check for asbestos include:

Insulation: Used in older homes for its heat retention properties.

Flooring: Floor tiles, linoleum, and some adhesives may contain asbestos.

Siding and Roofing: Transite siding and roofing materials.

Fireproofing Materials: Fire doors and certain coatings.

Ceilings: Popcorn ceiling coatings and other decorative finishes.

Any material that contains asbestos and is ready for disposal is classified as asbestos waste.

It is considered hazardous when it contains more than 0.1 percent asbestos fiber per cubic centimeter (0.1f/cm³). Asbestos Removal involves significant risks due to the potential release of microscopic fibers. Key steps include:

Assessment

It is essential to conduct an asbestos survey by a certified professional to identify the presence and condition of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

By choosing the appropriate type of survey and following through with the necessary actions, you can ensure the safe management or  asbestos removal, protecting both the building occupants and the workers involved in any refurbishment or demolition activities.

There are two primary types of surveys, each serving distinct purposes: Asbestos Management Survey: This survey is conducted to aid in the management of any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) during the normal occupation and use of a building. It is not intended for situations where the ACMs will be disturbed.

It involves a routine inspection to identify the location, type, and condition of any ACMs to ensure they are properly managed and maintained in place. Appropriate when there is no plan to disturb the ACMs and the goal is to ensure they remain undisturbed and in good condition during regular building operations.

Refurbishment and Demolition Survey on the other hand is essential when the planned work is intrusive and extensive, such as during major refurbishments or demolition projects. Its objective is to locate and describe all ACMs so they can be removed before the work begins.

It is a fully intrusive survey, potentially involving destructive inspection methods to access all areas where asbestos might be present.

This type of survey is necessary for refurbishment or demolition projects where the building’s structure will be significantly altered, ensuring all ACMs are identified and safely managed or removed.

Training and Certification

All workers involved in asbestos removal must be properly trained and certified. This ensures they are aware of the risks and the necessary safety procedures.

For most work involving higher risk activities or the removal of asbestos, a contractor licensed by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is required. This licensing ensures that the contractor has the necessary expertise and adheres to stringent safety standards.

Any licensable asbestos work must be reported to the appropriate enforcing authority before commencement. This could be the HSE, the Environment Agency, or the Local Authority, depending on the nature of the premises. Notification must be made using the FOD ASB5 form.

This form must be submitted at least 14 days in advance of the start of any asbestos-related work.

This lead time allows the enforcing authority to ensure all safety protocols are in place and that the work will be conducted in compliance with regulations.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Ensure the asbestos workers have the right PPE and follow strict removal procedures. It is essential for their safety and to prevent contamination. Proper training on these protocols and regular supervision can help maintain a safe working environment and protect workers’ families from secondary exposure.

Asbestos removal and containment

To ensure that your work area remains uncontaminated by dust, obtain 200-micron (200um) thick plastic sheeting or bags. Ensure these are new and not made from recycled materials, as recycled plastics may have impurities or weaknesses.

Close windows and doors and seal vents to stop dust getting into the house. Tape plastic over the floor, cover vents, air conditioning and central heating ducts. Apply the same sealing measures to neighboring rooms or areas to prevent dust from spreading.

Remove soft furnishings, rugs and curtains from the work area, or seal them in plastic if they can’t be moved.

During the asbestos removal process, the material must be carefully wetted to minimize the release of asbestos fibers into the air. Avoid drilling holes through eaves, flues, or vents, as they may contain asbestos.

Any disturbance can release dangerous fibers into the air. Also cutting into asbestos cement sheets is highly dangerous. Instead, remove the entire sheet intact to prevent the release of asbestos fibers. Lower the sheets gently to the ground rather than dropping them to avoid breaking and release asbestos fibers.

Once wetted, the asbestos should be placed in 6-millimeter thick plastic bags, ensuring they are double-bagged to provide an extra layer of containment.

These bags must then be sealed in a plastic, leak-tight container with a secure lid to prevent any potential leaks. Additionally, the container must be properly labeled to indicate the presence of asbestos.

Once the contaminated waste has been removed, all surfaces in the sealed off area will need to be environmentally cleaned to remove all remaining debris and residues. This will entail vacuuming and wiping clean all exposed surfaces before a visual inspection by the site supervisor.

Using vacuum cleaners that meet the AS/NZ 60035.2.60 standard with appropriate attachments helps minimize the risk of releasing harmful fibers and dust into the environment.

This ensures a thorough cleaning process while prioritizing safety for both workers and the surrounding environment.

After removing the asbestos material, proper disposal of asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) is crucial to prevent any further health risks associated with asbestos exposure.

Trained asbestos abatement professionals carefully remove the asbestos-containing materials from the designated area using specialized equipment and techniques to minimize the release of asbestos fibers into the air.

After removal, the ACMs are securely transported to a qualified landfill or disposal site that is authorized to handle asbestos waste. Regulations for asbestos disposal can vary by the specific state or region affected.

This transportation process is tightly regulated to ensure the safety of workers and the public.

Disposable overalls, masks, gloves, and other PPE worn by workers during the abatement process are carefully removed and disposed of as asbestos waste. These items are sealed in bags to prevent any potential release of asbestos fibers.

Also Read

The role of demolition in circular construction

Sustainable demolition: How to do it right

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