Whether you’re looking for somewhere to set up a new business, or you’ve already established one and are looking to renovate or extend, you’ve almost certainly heard of that dreaded building material – asbestos. The question is; why is it so dangerous, and why is it so widespread?
The fact is that asbestos is a mineral, and has many properties that make it a very attractive material to build with. Firstly, it has a good tensile strength, which means that it is resistant to being stretched or pulled; secondly, it is fire resistant and can be used to stop the spread of a blaze through a building; and thirdly, asbestos is good at soundproofing, which allows for thinner, and therefore cheaper, partition walls. It can be used in all sorts of places.
For these reasons, asbestos was very, very popular for centuries before it was discovered just how dangerous it could be. It was not until the mid-to-late 20th century that countries started to phase it out, but by then it was too late – there are buildings all over the world that still contain asbestos, and people are still discovering it. In places like Australia, it was still in widespread use throughout the 1980s.
Asbestos poses such a problem because it is highly fibrous, and these fibres easily become airborne when building materials are disturbed. These fibres can then be breathed in by construction workers, employees and customers, and can cause serious health issues. In the worst cases, prolonged exposure to the mineral fibres can cause lung cancer, and symptoms can sometimes present themselves many years later. This is part of the reason that it took so long for the connection to be made.
As a result, it is now essential the asbestos is not present in the workplace, but with its use so prevalent, it is still found in buildings of the last 50 years. Those in charge of business premises must therefore make every effort to ensure the harmful material is not present. Companies such as AMS Asbestos Management Services are around to ensure that those who are having to deal with asbestos in a building, are complying with the legal regulations.
If you’re a small business owner, or health and safety officer for a larger company, you must always remember that keeping your employees and customers safe is your responsibility. Never try to deal with asbestos without consulting the experts first.