When it comes to asbestos, roofing and insulation materials tend to be the first things that come to mind. However, not everyone is so aware of the other common materials that may contain asbestos; the HSE list a few examples, such as sprayed coatings, flooring, and textured coatings – all of which pose a health risk if disturbed without suitable precautions.
Before its total ban in November 1999, asbestos was used widely because of its properties as a thermal insulator, its strength, fire resistance and its chemical resistance.
As a provider of asbestos management and consultancy services, our asbestos surveyors have discovered asbestos in a number of locations and, with years of experience, are tuned in to the typical finds as well as the hidden uses of asbestos across many different functions.
Commercial director, James Dodgson, has compiled five applications of asbestos use to illustrate some common and some not so common areas where asbestos can be found.
The below photo shows a damaged and delaminated carpet in a factory, exposing the underlying grey magnesium oxychloride flooring. Classed as cement, it contains around 2% asbestos – usually tremolite, anthophyllite or chrysotile asbestos.
In this example, when examined at 30x magnification, the anthophyllite fibres are clearly visible – both embedded in the matrix (top of photograph) and fully removed from the matrix (centre of photograph).
Heating pipes, in the photo below, are covered by an asbestos cement sleeve. Clipped together by spring clips, there is no evidence where they lead from there! To the eye, the heating pipes look old but innocuous – someone with asbestos awareness training would know to take extreme care.
The below panel was found beneath a boiler plate at the back of a boiler. Upon testing, it was found to contain asbestos. As it was in good condition and the asbestos was unlikely to be disturbed, it did not need removing (as per HSE guidance). The presence of asbestos, however, should be regularly managed.
Asbestos Insulating Boards (AIB) were commonly used in a number of applications, due to its fireproofing qualities and resistance to heat and electricity. In this instance, the AIB is used as a fire guard. With its decorative effect, it is perhaps not the most obvious place to look for asbestos containing materials.
What appears to be a wall mounted metal heater actually has asbestos hidden behind the metal plate. When further careful investigation took place, it was also identified that there was an asbestos textile wrap covering the washer. If ACMs are in bad condition, remedial actions may need to be considered.
It is estimated that around 500,000 public buildings in the UK still have asbestos present. Just because asbestos is present, however, it does not mean it poses immediate danger. In fact, it is often more dangerous to remove the materials than it is to manage them in situ.
If in doubt, always seek further assistance from a competent company.
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