Asbestos Hazards in Roofing Work
Back in April we reported on the fact that roofing work involves many risks, the most common of which is falling. One of the other dangers highlighted when it comes to roofing work is the potential exposure the all types of hazardous dusts and chemicals. Exposure to asbestos containing materials (ACMs) is of particular concern as past exposure to asbestos is the most common cause of work-related deaths here in the UK (accounting for about 4,500 deaths every year) despite the fact that the use of asbestos was totally banned in 1999.
Asbestos is still out there because until it was outlawed it was commonly used in construction projects. This means that construction industry workers, especially those working on projects dealing with refurbishments and repairs, are constantly coming across asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Other types of construction dust can also cause serious lung diseases like asthma, silicosis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).
When it comes to roofing work, extra care needs to be taken, especially when re-roofing or roof repairs are necessary. This is because asbestos is commonly found in the following areas in both commercial and residential properties:
- Gutters and asbestos cement downpipes
- Asbestos cement roofing panels
- Asbestos cement roofs
Asbestos is likely to be present in any buildings constructed before the year 2000 and still causes around 5,000 deaths every year. Duty holders of any building must be aware of their responsibilities and there are steps that should be taken in order to comply with the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 to protect workers and the public from the harmful effects of asbestos dust.
Workers who handle asbestos would be exposed to the fibres as the asbestos sheets are broken or cut, leading to the fibres being released into the air for those working in the area to breathe in. Once they enter the lungs, asbestos fibres hook into the lining of the membranes and take root.
While the majority of those affected in years gone by were males who were exposed to asbestos while working, there have been cases of females contracting mesothelioma due to a secondary exposure taking place when workers would return home with work clothes that would be laundered by their wives. As the women handled the contaminated work clothes, the asbestos fibres would once more be disturbed and become airborne, entering the lungs of those doing the laundry. The symptoms of mesothelioma can take up to 30 – 40 years to become apparent which is one of the reasons that experts predict more asbestos related deaths in the future.
When asbestos use was finally banned in the UK in the 1990s, the Control of Asbestos Regulations were introduced to ensure that those who may be exposed to asbestos are protected. When remodelling or refurbishing work is planned on older buildings, an asbestos survey must be carried out before work begins. If asbestos or ACMs are found either before or during the work, specially trained personnel must be brought in to handle, remove and dispose of it.
Over the coming weeks we’ll be taking a look at the dangers associated with asbestos, duty holder responsibilities and how to protect yourself.