Asbestos awareness

What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a strong fibrous rock, which can resist heat and chemicals. It was commonly used in building materials between the 1950s and 1980s. Asbestos was often used as fireproofing but also as a general building material. Almost all buildings built or changed during this period are likely to contain asbestos. Products containing asbestos can look the same as those that do not. Often the difference can only be found under a microscope when tested in a special laboratory.

Why is asbestos potentially a problem?
Although asbestos is a hazardous material, it can only pose a risk to health if the asbestos fibres become airborne. The fibres can be breathed deep into the lung causing possible damage. The most common diseases associated with asbestos exposure are asbestosis, lung cancer and another cancer called mesothelioma. Many workers with high exposures have died from these cancers.

Asbestos materials pose little risk unless they are disturbed in some way that allows the fibres to be released into the atmosphere. This will occur if the asbestos-containing material is drilled, sanded, cut or broken up but could also occur if it is in poor and damaged condition and liable to disturbance.

What is the likelihood of exposure to asbestos in the home?
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that there is a very low level of asbestos fibres in the air generally. Exposure to this low level of fibres is unlikely to harm people's health. Levels of fibres may be higher in buildings containing asbestos materials, especially where the materials are disturbed. It is very unlikely that the levels of asbestos fibres found in buildings will be harmful, but if there are damaged asbestos materials in a home then advice on appropriate action must be sought.

Where might I find asbestos in a home?
Not all homes contain asbestos. Below is a list of places where asbestos has been found in properties. This list is not exhaustive.

    - Exterior of buildings
    - Roof sheets and tiles, fascia boards, exterior cladding, guttering and drain pipes
    - Boilers
    - Some interior workings of boilers, boiler flue pipes, storage radiators
    - Interior surfaces
    - Textured wall and ceiling coatings (e.g. artex’ duct panels (access to pipe work); infill panels (above,  
      below or next to doorways /windows), panels behind radiators or heaters, floor tiles, suspended
      ceiling panels, underside of stairs
    - Other areas
    - Bath panels, fireplace panels, panel to underside of sink, water tank, pipe lagging,
      garage and shed roof.

How does Hastoe minimise risks?

a) Regular surveys
We are committed to removing health risks posed by asbestos. We have surveyed most of our properties so that we are aware of the presence, the type and the condition of any asbestos there is. Where asbestos is present we arrange for tests to be carried out. If the asbestos is in a good condition, we leave it in place. However, if the asbestos is in a bad condition, it is removed or made safe by specialist contractors.

b) Keeping records
We keep a list of properties where asbestos has been found or is believed to exist. The list is updated as each time we carry out a new survey.

c) Working closely with our contractors
We let our staff and contractors know if asbestos is present so that they take extra case when they carry out work in a home, to protect everyone. Any repairs or major works undertaken in tenant's homes by our contractors includes a risk assessment to check whether they are likely to disturb asbestos. Where asbestos is found to be damaged or may be disturbed it will be managed safely either by encapsulation or removal by specialist contractors.

d) Working closely with customers
Over time, we hope to be able to have a system which allows us to give individual tenants specific information about the presence of asbestos in their home. We also hope to use the information for tenants who wish to purchase properties through their Right to Buy and leaseholders.
How can tenants and leaseholders minimise risks?
Nobody should be at risk if products containing asbestos are undisturbed or undamaged. In good condition, asbestos is not a health hazard. If items do become damaged or deteriorate, then people may be at risk from asbestos fibres in the air. ‘Do it yourself’ (DIY) activities such as drilling or sanding may disturb and possibly damage products containing asbestos.

Advice for Hastoe Tenants
The tenancy agreement requires tenants to get our permission before they do any DIY work in the property. If they find or suspect asbestos, they must be advised to leave everything in place (tools, groundsheets etc), close the door leading to the room and contact us immediately. We will arrange to have a sample taken and tested to establish if it contains asbestos. Please click on the link below to see our leaflet on asbestos in the Home:
Hastoe Asbestos Safety Leaflet

When asbestos materials need to be removed or made safe, we will employ contractors who are licensed with the Health and Safety Executive. They will seal off the area containing damaged asbestos with an air tight enclosure if necessary. They then collect and secure the material under the Waste Management Licensing regulations. If necessary, an independent analyst from the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), will carry out an air check to make sure the area is safe. All work is done under the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations.

Major works
Where major projects are being undertaken, we formally consult tenants and leaseholders as a group and advise on the full process such as how the asbestos will be removed and, if necessary, what precautions are needed and for how long. If the damaged asbestos material is an access to ducting, carrying commercial services within a block, then this is our responsibility. We will arrange for appropriate works to be carried out to ensure the asbestos material is removed or made safe. This work will be charged as a block cost in the usual way.

Do you need more information?
Have you read our Asbestos Leaflet?  Click on the link below:

Or ring our repairs team on Lo-call 0845 702 3271 or 020 8973 0395.

Or you can find out more from the:
Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on their InfoLine 0845 345 0055 or by post to:

Health and Safety Executive
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge
London SE1 9HS
You can click on the link below to go to the Asbestos Information page on the HSE website which includes a downloadable video:

Information is also available from:
United Kingdom Accreditation Service
Phone: 44 (0) 20 8917 8400
Post: UKAS, 21-47 High Street,
Feltham, Middlesex TW13 4UN

The Asbestos Removal Control Association
Phone: 44 (0)1283 531 126
Post: ARCA House, 237 Branston Road,
Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire DE14 3BT
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