Asbestos is the common label given to a group of natural fibrous silicate minerals. Known for their strength, asbestos can separate into thin, durable fibres. These fibres can be dislodged and become airborne. Asbestos had been used extensively in buildings as a thermal insulator and fire protection material.
Asbestos could be located in any building that was built or refurbished before the year 2000. Asbestos containing materials will vary in condition depending on the type of product and the use of that product. The Safety health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations 2006-2010 requires a managed approach to asbestos containing materials in workplaces. These regulations require employers to identify the presence of asbestos containing materials and to assess the risk posed to workers by these asbestos contaminated materials based on the likely work activities and the potential for these work activities to disturb the asbestos.
Asbestos is a known human carcinogen (cancer causing agent) that was used extensively in Ireland up to 2000 when it was finally prohibited from use. Asbestos fibres can cause fatal lung disease when inhaled. These diseases which include lung cancer and mesothelioma do not develop suddenly and can have a latency period of over 20 years from initial exposures. Asbestos containing materials constitute a particular risk within the meaning of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Construction) Regulations 2013 and should always be addressed in the Preliminary Health and Safety Plan and is the responsibility of the designers and the Project Supervisor of Design. Asbestos is a fibrous material and has excellent insulating and fire resistant properties. Asbestos was seldom used as pure asbestos fibres but rather combined with other products to add strength and stability or fire resistance to them. Asbestos may be found in products from a few percent up to 90% depending on the type of material. Asbestos is a hazard to humans but the risks posed by asbestos containing materials will depend on the type of contaminated material found. Where asbestos products are flaky and would crumble easily under hand pressure they are termed friable. The more friable the ACM the more risk there is to the individual handling the material.
No person is permitted to work with asbestos containing materials unless they have received training and have taken all reasonable steps to prevent exposure to asbestos.The requirement for training is detailed in Regulation 17 of the Safety Health and Welfare at Work (Exposure to Asbestos) Regulations, 2006-2010