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Asbestos can be found across the UK in pre-2000 homes, building sites and public buildings and, following exposure, can pose serious health concerns later in life. In fact, there are approximately 3,500 deaths every year due to asbestos-related diseases, with many of these occurring in people who have worked in the building trade. In this blog, we take a look at why you should be aware of asbestos when working in the lift industry.

What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a group of wide-ranging, naturally occurring minerals made up of thin, microscopic fibres. There are six recognised types of asbestos, each with different associated risks: White Asbestos (Chrysolite), Brown Asbestos (Amosite) and Blue Asbestos (Crocidolite), Anthophyllite, Tremolite and Actinolite. While these cannot be identified by their colour, a ‘bulk sample’ analysis is carried out on small sections in order to take the necessary actions.

Asbestos in the lift industry
Before it was outlawed in the UK, asbestos was used quite frequently in lift manufacturing due to its fire and heat resistant properties. Therefore, it may still be present and found in control rooms, fuse boxes, car doors and brake linings.

How asbestos can affect you
When left undisturbed. asbestos is not a threat to your health, however if it is damaged by being cut into or drilled when working on site then it is highly likely it will become dangerous. Once airborn, it enters our bodies when we breathe or eat or drink something that has been in contact with it. Although our bodies can cope with large fibres, smaller fibres can pass into our lungs and repeated exposure over the years can cause asbestos-related illnesses to develop.

Who is responsible?
An asbestos survey should be completed by the lift owner or the facilities manager. In line with CDM (Construction, Design and Management) regulations, an asbestos register should be kept to indicate where all known or suspected asbestos might be present. It should show the locations and associated risks, along with a plan for how you will manage them. Any asbestos which could cause harm should be removed. If an asbestos inspection hasn’t been carried out, the owner of the site could receive heavy fines.

During a job, if you suspect asbestos is present, stop the work you are doing and review the asbestos register. Make sure you report it to your line manager, especially if you think you have released asbestos fibres into the atmosphere.  It is important you are aware of the risks and take the necessary actions to ensure your health and the health of others isn’t compromised.

For further advice on asbestos and to ensure your knowledge is up to date, complete our toolbox talk here.

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