Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that once was lauded for its versatility, heat resistance, tensile strength and insulating properties that protected against corrosion. These properties made it an ideal material for use in products, including insulation material for buildings, boilers and pipes sprayed coating/lagging, wall insulation, asbestos cement, ceiling and floor tiles, textured paints and reinforced plastic amongst others.
From the 1950’s to the 1990’s asbestos was commonly used in building projects across the UK. This included use in new council housing, public sector buildings such as schools and hospitals and even small builds such as garage roofs where its heat resistant properties were valued.
From the 1960’s, the health risks of asbestos began to be recognised. It was found that breathing in air containing asbestos fibres could lead to asbestos-related diseases, including cancers of the lungs and chest lining. The danger from asbestos occurs when asbestos containing materials are disturbed or moved and fibres may be released and inhaled. By 2000, the use of asbestos in construction, shipbuilding and other industries in the UK was banned.
The three main types of asbestos typically used in building work were:
Chrysotile (white asbestos). The most commonly used type of asbestos due to its high flexibility and heat resistant properties. It was ideal for use in cement and roofing materials.
Amosite (brown asbestos). Very strong and highly heat-resistant, it was commonly used in cement sheeting, plumbing and electrical insulation.
Crocidolite (blue asbestos). One of the most harmful forms of asbestos, it was often used in spray-on coatings, pipe insulation, plastics and cement products.
You have a legal duty to manage the risk from asbestos or a duty to co-operate with whoever manages that risk if you:
Own non-domestic premises which may contain asbestos
Occupy non-domestic premises which may contain asbestos
Manage non-domestic premises which may contain asbestos
Have responsibility for non-domestic premises which may contain asbestos
Are responsible for common parts of domestic premises like hall and lift areas in flats
An Asbestos Management Survey is legally required to be carried out in all non-domestic properties and this allows day-to-day works to be carried out safely.