Routinely used as a building material and especially popular in the 1950s and 1960s, asbestos has since been proved a hazardous substance that can have devastating effects if not handled or disposed of with caution.
Often present in pipe and boiler insulation, ceiling tiles and coated surfaces, this fibrous mineral is still found in many buildings and can cause serious or even fatal lung injuries if sufficient quantities are inhaled.
Thankfully, awareness of the dangers has improved in recent years and by knowing how to stay safe it's possible to work with asbestos without incurring any adverse effects.
Working with Asbestos
The presence of asbestos is not a danger alone, as the material only becomes a problem when it breaks apart. Those working in proximity to asbestos need to be aware of the dangers of breathing in microscopic particles of asbestos dust. In England and Wales, specially trained and qualified workers must adhere to strict guidelines when handling this dangerous material.
Do Not Disturb
Used frequently until the 1990s when it was banned, asbestos is still frequently found in homes, commercial buildings and caring institutions. It is important not to disturb the material unless absolutely necessary. Risk of ill health can be reduced by hiring specialists to check the condition and type of asbestos that may be present in a building. Sometimes removal is not the best option.
Nobody should attempt to disturb or dispose of asbestos unless properly trained to do so. If found in contact with it, appropriate safety wear should be used, including protective masks and goggles to reduce any chance of inhalation or ingestion (peritoneal mesothelioma occurs in the abdomen, whereas pleural mesothelioma affects the lungs).
It's important to make sure nobody else stumbles across the waste product and it should never be removed using a vacuum cleaner or placed in a standard dustbin or skip. Special services are available to remove the product safely and effectively without it harming anyone in transit.
Worst Case Scenario
In the event of prolonged exposure to asbestos, there is a possibility of developing cancer and in this situation claiming mesothelioma compensation would be a possibility. Mesothelioma is a rare, specific type of cancer caused by asbestos poisoning, usually occurring long after people have been regularly exposed to the material in the workplace.
With so much asbestos still remaining in buildings up and down the country, it's essential that everyone knows how to identify it. Employers have a legal duty to protect their workers, especially builders and tradespeople who may encounter the material as a matter of course. Everyone else can stay aware and avoid exposure to asbestos should they come across it, instead calling for support from licensed professionals and those with specialist knowledge and experience.
By knowing where asbestos lies or is likely to lie within a building and by taking adequate precautions, there is no reason why anyone need suffer any ill effects.
Lewis Jones-Brown is a writer specialising in health and safety in the workplace and related subjects. Lewis understands that claiming mesothelioma compensation can be a difficult experience for many people, but believes that the opportunity to obtain justice should never be overlooked.