A Commons Problem

Found in many buildings throughout the UK, from schools and hospitals to residential homes, asbestos is a dangerous carcinogenic that has been widely used in building materials due to its fire and chemical resistant properties. Found in areas such as insulation materials for pipes and furnaces, siding and roof tiles, soundproofing applications and some floor tiles, asbestos is generally safe if left undisturbed, however, with properties coming to the end of their life cycle, there is a growing need to deal with the problem of asbestos in buildings that are to be renovated or demolished.

One major landmark to be at this stage is the Palace of Westminster; dating back to the mid-1800s, the Palace of Westminster was a highly advanced building in its time, complete with innovative features suitable for those working in the House of Commons and House of Lords. However, over the years, the Palace of Westminster has required major renovation, with areas such as heating, ventilation and drainage becoming increasingly antiquated and damaged. Moreover, the increasing pollution within London and lack of maintenance on the building has resulted in excessive decay; the roof is also leaking and, perhaps most concerning, asbestos is present throughout.

While rigorous checks, surveys, and intrusive renovation work has been carried out at the Palace of Westminster, so far only the most essential maintenance and the piecemeal replacements of systems that are at the highest risk of failure has taken place. Aware that this way of operating is not a sustainable solution for the future of the Palace of Westminster, particularly when work is being carried out at a slower rate than the deterioration of the building, there is now a plan in place to possibly close the Palace and focus on the key issue of asbestos in the service shafts and piping ducts.

This decision follows a study by Goddard Consulting on behalf of the Parliamentary Works Service Directorate, which took place in 2015. Reportedly posing a significant risk to all people within the Palace of Westminster, asbestos can be found in key areas such as an access door to an asbestos-contaminated shaft based next to the Commons kitchen; wedged shut with a spoon and opened when the room got too hot, the opening allows cold air to rush into the room, which in turn allows the possibility of toxic asbestos fibres to disperse throughout kitchen should dust and debris be disturbed in the riser. Of 20 samples taken throughout the four service shafts in August 2015, 11 showed amosite was present in debris on the floor or walls; the brown asbestos is one of the more dangerous forms of asbestos, causing an increased need for these renovation works to take place. Additionally, asbestos has been used as an insulating material across the building and can also be found in many plant rooms, corridors and underfloor voids.

With Theresa May anticipated to back the call for MPs to move out of the Houses of Parliament for six years from 2022 to 2028 so restoration work can take place, this is just one example of the huge task that lies ahead for asbestos survey and removal specialists such as ARG over the coming years. Indeed, with the all-party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Health and Safety calling for a new asbestos eradication law [Link to: https://www.healthandsafetyatwork.com/content/mps-call-asbestos-eradication-law in a new window], asbestos could potentially be removed from all rented homes, businesses and public buildings by 2035. Should this law be passed, duty holders will be required to have one of two types of surveys for asbestos containing materials on the property; ARG offers its customers a management survey, in which the types and condition of any ACM are assessed during the occupation and use of premises, as well as a refurbishment/demolition survey, which Is required where the premises, or part of it, require upgrading, refurbishment and demolition. Should asbestos removal be required, ARG can offer specialist services to ensure work is carefully planned and executed in a way where disruption and cost is kept to a minimum.

For those seeking high quality, reliable and cost-effective asbestos surveying and removal services, contact ARG. Throughout asbestos surveys and removal, ARG ensure we operate to stringent levels of safety by adhering to up to date UK Asbestos regulation/legislation as well as the HSE regulations and guidance for the removal of asbestos. To meet these high standards, our employees that undertake work involving asbestos surveying and removal are not only fully trained, but have a comprehensive knowledge of their health and safety obligations. By operating in this manner, no one is put at risk from their working activity.

Contact ARG today to discuss your survey: 020 8804 8008 or E-Mail: enquiries@arggroup.org