Health and Safety News

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Safe methods of asbestos disposal

Photo shows an asbestos warning signHandling asbestos can release fibres which are known to cause lung cancer and other lung and respiratory problems. According to the 2012 Control of Asbestos Regulations, removal of some asbestos waste is designated a ‘licensed’ task (and must be handled by special licensed contractors).

What is Asbestos waste?

Asbestos waste is the term covering any type of asbestos materials or products ready for disposal. Also included in this definition are any contaminated site materials such as rubble and dust, building materials, cleaning rags, one-use PPE (personal protective equipment), and any tools which have not been decontaminated. 

When there is doubt, HSE (Health and Safety Executive) safety advice is to treat the waste as ‘Hazardous’ anyway. Waste water can be legally discharged into sewers even if it contains asbestos traces. 

Asbestos waste packaging

In order to prevent the release of harmful fibres, asbestos waste should be placed in a red inner bag and then a clear outer bag. Both bags should have labels warning of asbestos and hazard markings. In the case of textured coatings still firmly attached to boards, and undamaged asbestos cement sheets, these should not be broken up. Such items must be double-wrapped carefully in strong polythene sheeting (1000 gauge) and then labelled as above. Bags should never be overfilled and care must be taken to avoid puncturing the plastic with sharp objects.

Carriage and disposal of asbestos waste

Carriage of waste requires the use of a vehicle or skip, with the following specifications:

• There must be a sealed and segregated asbestos compartment
• The vehicle or skip facility must be easily cleanable, and lockable

Throwing a sheet across a standard skip is unacceptable.

Safe disposal of asbestos waste requires the use of a properly licensed disposal site. A Waste Consignment Note must also be completed and this document should be retained for three years.

Applicable legislation

In England and Wales, asbestos waste is deemed to be ‘Hazardous’ once the asbestos content rises above 0.1% and is then subject to the Hazardous Waste Regulations.

The 2012 Control of Asbestos Regulations is applicable to all asbestos waste, and the 2009 Carriage of Dangerous Goods Regulations applies to most asbestos waste – except where the asbestos is ‘firmly-bound’ and unable to release harmful fibres. 

Dealing with waste dumps

Where there has been fly-tipping, or where it is known, or suspected, that waste material contains asbestos; further precautions should be taken:

• Preparation - Cordon off the area. Post warning signs, and limit access to properly trained personnel.
• Equipment – duct tape, polythene sheeting (1000 gauge) and asbestos waste container (labelled polythene sack), asbestos warning stickers.
• PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) – hooded disposable overalls, boots not requiring laces, gloves, protective breathing equipment.

The Environment Agency should be notified. 

Larger amounts of asbestos waste, or situations where the asbestos is widely dispersed and/or mixed through other materials should always be handled by an appropriate HSE licensed contractor. The waste should be completely covered with polythene sheeting which must then be secured in place using pegs. Asbestos warning stickers should be prominently attached. An exclusion zone should be established and the site kept secure until the HSE licensed contractors arrive. 

Given the difficulties and dangers associated with asbestos waste, it is well worth contacting an asbestos disposal company for professional assistance.

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