Hough & Co.are highly experienced in all aspects of asbestos presence. Where asbestos materials are likely or suspected, we can provide a comprehensive service to clients.

Management Survey:

All materials that our surveyor suspects may contain asbestos are sampled and the asbestos confirmed or disproved by laboratory analysis. Only asbestos materials on the external regions of structures are detected using this method. This is the preferred HSE method for buildings, which are not going to be demolished or substantially refurbished.

Refurbishment or Demolition Survey:

This is a more in-depth survey due to the fabric of the building being disturbed during renovation or demolition. Intrusive methods are used in order to assist detection of asbestos situated inside structural components. This method is intrinsically more hazardous and will involve isolation of all services in the areas. The buildings must be unoccupied if a full Refurbishment or Demolition Survey is to be carried out. The client must be aware that this type of survey will involve the disruption to surface and building components.

'Suspicious' Material Sampling:

Sampling of 'suspicious' – materials that are suspected of being hazardous, can also be undertaken rather than a full building survey being carried out. Hough & Co. will undertake a sampling process solely on the suspect area/s identified by the client.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a term used to describe the fibrous forms of a number of naturally occurring minerals. In its 3 common forms (blue, brown and white) asbestos was used in insulation products and in building materials from the early 1900s. This continued until the importation, supply and use of blue and brown asbestos was prohibited in 1985 and the supply, importation and use of white asbestos was prohibited, with few specific exceptions, in 1999.

The material was widely used in the construction industry from the 1920s onwards, with peak usage during the late 1960s to early 1970s.

Working with asbestos can cause the release small fibres into the air. When these fibres are breathed in, this can eventually lead (after a period between 15 and 60 years) to diseases including asbestosis (scarring of the lungs), lung cancer and mesothelioma (a cancer of the inner lining of the chest wall or abdominal cavity).

Asbestos is ubiquitous and because of environmental contamination, everyone is exposed to low levels of asbestos fibres every day, but the risks are considered to be very low. Where asbestos has been used in a building, the exposure levels may rise. The degree of risk to occupiers will depend upon the type of asbestos fibre to which the occupier is exposed, the age of the occupier, the duration and the intensity of the exposure, the number of times that the occupier is exposed and on smoking habits.

Building and Alteration Works

The presence of asbestos in a building where construction work is to be carried out almost always includes expense and there may be a temptation to ignore the possibility of asbestos presence. However, under the Construction, Design and Management (CDM) Regulations there is a direct Client obligation to provide the planning supervisor with adequate information about any aspect of the project or structure or materials (including articles or substances) which might affect the health or safety of any person at work.

Costs

Where asbestos materials are present within a building, the basic control options will be either:

a) Removal, or b) Treatment (Clean up, Repair, Encapsulate, Enclose) followed by ongoing management of the asbestos materials.

Removal will represent a capital cost likely to be significantly in excess of possible treatment costs. However, removal will be a one-off cost as against the ongoing cost of both treatment and subsequent management works. In some situations removal may be the only option because of the physical condition of the asbestos and/or its location and degree of exposure to physical damage.

The cost of removal of any particular item of asbestos will vary enormously and each application will need to be separately estimated.

What are the dangers of asbestos?

Asbestos related diseases currently kill around 3,000 people a year and the figure is expected to rise before falling. Those that are now suffering, were, in the majority, exposed during the period between the 1950's and 1970's when the risks were, perhaps, less well understood and before the current regulations were introduced. They were employed in building and associated trades, for example, maintenance operatives, gas fitters and shop fitters.

The dangers of asbestos are manifested when the fibres are released into the atmosphere in, for example, an enclosed space such as a building.

Fibres will be released when the material is damaged or disturbed. Provided the asbestos remains undamaged and undisturbed, the danger to health (risk) will be low.

The removal of asbestos materials will, by its very nature, involve disturbance of the material. A high degree of control will be required and asbestos removal should only be carried out where necessary. Removal should not be carried out simply because asbestos materials are present.

In general, the risks associated with asbestos containing materials revolve around the ability of the material to release fibres and the probability of those fibres being released. This, in turn, will be dependent upon such factors as the mechanical condition of the material, the softness and friability of the material and its liability to future physical damage. Some materials, e.g. sprayed limpet asbestos fire insulation are soft and liable to break up readily, releasing fibres into the atmosphere. Others, such as asbestos cement panels are hard and unlikely, in most circumstances, to give off significant amounts of fibres. Note, however, that even for these relatively hard materials, care should be taken in its maintenance. Sanding or wire brushing, for example, must be prohibited.

For further information regarding our asbestos services, please contact us.