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The risks posed by asbestos have become well-documented, but it will still be some time before it is no longer a concern, particularly for construction workers. Asbestos can potentially be found in an any equipment installed before the year 2000 and was commonly used in the brake shoes on all sorts of different machinery.

Asbestos brake lining in the lift industry

Most standard lifts can carry a load close to 3000kg meaning an incredible amount of force is required to stop the car from moving if a fault is detected. Asbestos possesses several properties which made it so popular within the construction industry, including its resistance to heat. As a result, it became the ideal material for lift brake lining, as it could withstand the heat generated when the brakes were applied.

However, the friction which generated the heat in the first place would also cause asbestos fibres to be emitted from the brake lining and distribute them into the surrounding air. This posed the health risks we commonly associate with asbestos today, such as mesothelioma and other cancers of the lungs and larynx.

Spotting asbestos brake lining

It’s not uncommon for lift engineers to find themselves working in environments where asbestos might be present. In truth, it’s very difficult to tell whether brake shoes contain asbestos just by looking at them. Engineers will often rely on signage and registers to inform them whether a particular piece of equipment is safe, but this information isn’t always readily available. With that in mind, it’s incredibly important that you are aware of the safety precautions you should take.

Asbestos brake lining training

When a hazard isn’t immediately obvious it’s easy to think there is none and carry on working as usual. If you’re unsure, you should treat any suspicious equipment in the same way you would if you knew it contained asbestos. Take yourself out of harm’s way, inform the correct people and only continue with your job once you are sure it’s safe to do so.

Refresh your memory of what measures you should take if you are working with asbestos brake lining by taking our toolbox talk here.

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