Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material that was frequently used in building construction materials between the 1950s and 1990’s. It was used as an insulator (to keep in heat and keep out cold), has good fire protection properties and protects against corrosion.
Because asbestos is often mixed with another material, it's hard to know if you're working with it or not. But, if you work in a building built before the year 2000, it's likely that some parts of the building will contain asbestos.
Asbestos is found in many products used in buildings, including ceiling and floor tiles, pipe insulation, boilers, textured decorative coatings and sprayed coatings.
Asbestos is a hidden killer that can cause four serious diseases. These diseases will not affect you immediately; they often take a long time to develop, but once diagnosed, it is often too late to do anything. There is a need for you to protect yourself now.
If asbestos is in a good condition then it should not present a risk, however, if it is damaged or disturbed, people can inhale loose airborne fibres which may develop over the long term into diseases of the lungs and chest linings.
Non domestic building owners have a legal obligation to ensure people are not exposed to harmful asbestos on their premises and are legally required to carry out a risk assessment in relation to their property and to ensure that workers and visitors are not exposed to asbestos fibres.
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), asbestos is the greatest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK. Illness from exposure to Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) can take 15 - 60 years to develop, therefore misleading those that may have inhaled asbestos fibres into thinking there is nothing wrong with their health.
The largest group of people at risk from asbestos-related disease are those in the building and maintenance trades. Most of the people that are dying now were exposed to asbestos in the 1950s, 60s and 70s.
There is no cure for asbestos-related disease and, every week on average, 4 plumbers, 20 tradesmen, 6 electricians, and 8 joiners die from the effects of this ‘hidden killer’.