What to Do if You Find Asbestos

There are good reasons why the use of asbestos has been banned in the UK since 1999; most specifically, the inhalation of asbestos fibres can be extremely dangerous to human health, being associated with the long-term development of conditions like fatal lung disease and lung cancer.

But do your organisation’s personnel know what to do if they discover asbestos on a physical premises, or even accidentally disturb it during the course of their work?

If you have any doubts about the above, here are the essential courses of action to take.

What to Do if You Find Asbestos

Stop work immediately

In the event that you do come across materials that you suspect or believe to be asbestos, the most important thing to do is to immediately cease work on-site. This way, the materials can be tested and their true nature ascertained, before anyone puts themselves at further risk.

Your organisation should already have emergency procedures in place for dealing with this kind of situation. Such procedures should include warning anyone who might have been affected by any accidental and uncontrolled release of asbestos fibres in the workplace.

Ensure nobody enters the area

It is of especially urgent importance to ensure no one who isn’t wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) and respiratory protection equipment (RPE) remains in the area while work is being done to investigate and identify the material.

Put up a warning sign reading “possible asbestos contamination”, to prevent anyone else entering the area until the material has been safely dealt with.

If you believe the uncontrolled release of asbestos materials has occurred, your other steps at this stage should include identifying the cause of any such release, and regaining adequate control as soon as possible.

Report the problem to whoever is in charge

Whoever has responsibility for the site work or building should be informed immediately, so that they can take action to have the material dealt with in line with their own legal and moral responsibilities.

Arrange to have a sample of the suspected asbestos-containing material tested

You can’t hope to know for sure whether a given material is asbestos, just by looking at it. So, you will need to arrange for suitably trained professionals to take a look at the material and determine whether asbestos is present.

Asbestos sample testing is a service that we offer here at Oracle Solutions. It’s a process where a sample of suspected asbestos-containing material (ACM) is analysed by an expert technician under laboratory conditions.

You will typically need to allow up to 72 hours for a standard asbestos testing service like ours to do its work. However, we also make available a ‘fast-track’ service, whereby you will be guaranteed a result by the next day.

You might be wondering what the physical process of taking a sample involves. According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice, you won’t need a licence in order to take a sample. Indeed, it’s possible to take the asbestos sample yourself if the material has already broken off and there isn’t any risk of you coming into contact with the dust or spreading the fibres.

Understandably, though, many organisations that have encountered suspected asbestos on their site are extremely anxious to ensure no unnecessary risks are taken. If this describes your situation, you are welcome to reach out to Oracle Solutions, so that we can arrange to take the asbestos sample for you.

If the material does not contain asbestos, work can continue

If the outcome of the testing of your sample is that there isn’t any asbestos contained within it, you will be able to proceed using the site in the same way as previously. That would include carrying out any construction or similar work that you were undertaking on the premises.

If the material does contain asbestos, consult a licensed asbestos contractor

In the event that it is confirmed the material does contain asbestos, you will need to apply appropriate controls, and should get in touch with a licensed contractor to determine the best next courses of action.

It isn’t always necessary for ACMs on a given premises to be removed altogether; a guiding principle of good asbestos management today is that it is often a better choice to leave asbestos in place if it is unlikely to be disturbed.

However, if disturbance of the material is likely, or it is in such poor condition that there is no way to make it safe, this is the kind of situation in which you may be investigating your options for removal of the substance from your site.

If you discovered asbestos on your premises in the first place due to higher-risk materials – such as asbestos lagging or loose fill – having been accidentally disturbed and released, this is another situation in which you will need to contact a licensed contractor, so that they can undertake the safe clean-up of your site.

The HSE has further detailed guidance on what to do in the event of discovering or disturbing asbestos materials on a site for which you are responsible. As for if you are seeking out the services of accredited and trustworthy asbestos consultants, there is no need to look further than Oracle Solutions; simply give us a call now, or email us for your free quotation.