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
    - 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 Leaseholders
Under the terms of the lease, leaseholders are responsible for all fixtures and fittings within their property, including artex ceilings and floor tiles. We are responsible for the building structure.
Leaseholders must make their own arrangements for removal unless the work is part of a major project for which Hastoe is responsible, such as external work. Before starting any DIY activities on products that may contain asbestos, leaseholders can seek specialist advice. Leaseholders must arrange surveys and removal themselves. All work must be carried out by approved contractors. Any asbestos removed from the property it must be disposed of by approved asbestos removal contractors. If leaseholders have asbestos removed or sealed, they should inform us and future owners so that this information can be passed on for the safety of others.

The United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) provide lists of those who are accredited for asbestos work. The HSE has produced detailed guidance on asbestos removal standards for different types of products.

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?

Read our Asbestos Safety factsheet

Or ring the Hastoe Hub on 0300 123 2250

Or you can find out more from the:

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) on their website or by post to:

Health and Safety Executive
Redgrave Court
Merton Road
L20 7HS

You can click on the link below to go to the Asbestos Information Leaflets on the HSE website:

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) - Asbestos Leaflets

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