Asbestos Precautions

Below you’ll find information on how to deal with asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and products, including the necessary precautions to take around asbestos. Some of this information was originally compiled for specifically dealing with asbestos cement, but remains loosely applicable for dealing with various asbestos applications.

Precautions to take around Asbestos in the Workplace

The precautions required when working with ACMs are relatively easy to follow, but must be strictly adhered to in order to minimise the risk of releasing dangerous quantities of asbestos fibres:

  • Carry out a risk assessment and write a method statement to ensure that the risk is reduced to the minimum possible and that any fibre release is below the 10 Minute Limit and Control Limit set out in the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. Information on the 10 Minute Level and Control Limits can be found in the ‘Approved Code of Practice The Management of Asbestos in Non-Domestic Premises’, L127, ISBN 0 7176 6209.
  • Ensure the operatives are fully aware that they are working on asbestos containing products and that that they are adequately trained.
  • Segregate the working areas with warning signs.
  • Ensure that all operatives wear a disposable mask that is CE marked to EN 149 with FFP3 particulate filters, as well as disposable overalls, all of which should be disposed of at the end of each shift as asbestos waste.
  • When working at heights, follow the advice in HSG 33 Health and safety in roof work (1998) – remember that old asbestos cement sheets such as those found on roofs are very fragile.
  • Keep asbestos containing material wet when working on it.
  • Avoid using power tools and breaking ACMs, but carefully remove or crop fixings so that the product can be removed in one piece. Carefully carry the ACM to the ground and either double wrap in polythene or place in a covered skip.
  • Where it is necessary to cut or drill asbestos cement sheets, ensure that the material is wet, and if possible scribe and break; if this is not possible use hand tools, preferably in the open air.
  • Keep the site clean and tidy at all times and clean up after work by dampening any dust and carefully placing in a polythene bag for disposal as asbestos waste.
  • Where an asbestos cement roof or cladding is being repaired, it is lawful to reuse the existing asbestos cement sheets as long as the correct working practices are used to keep asbestos exposure of the operatives to the minimum possible. The AIC does not accept that this is good practice, as removing and replacing a sheet will add extra stress to it and shorten even further the second hand sheets life. We recommend that whenever an asbestos cement product is removed it be replaced with a non-asbestos alternative.
  • Where an asbestos cement corrugated roof has come to the end of its economic life, rather than replacing it, it may be safer and more cost effective to leave the sheets in place and over-roof with a non asbestos roofing sheet, adding insulation if required. This should be discussed with a competent contractor or designer.

Key takeaways:

  • Carry out a full site audit first and before any work begins.
  • Ensure that all operatives are informed that they are working with asbestos.
  • Provide all operatives with appropriate disposable masks and overalls to dispose of after each shift
  • Keep ACMs wet.
  • Remove delicately in one piece.
  • Avoid breaking or using power tools unless absolute necessary.