Asbestos advice for homeowners and businesses
Asbestos in the home
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has produced an interactive plan identifying where asbestos can be found in the home.
If you have asbestos and it's not damaged, leave it where it is, especially if it's in good condition.
If there is some slight damage, you can paint indoor materials with an alkali resistant paint, for example a PVA emulsion.
Badly damaged asbestos materials should be removed if they cannot be protected. Do not try to remove asbestos materials yourself if you haven't been trained, use a contractor.
Do not sand, drill or saw materials which may contain asbestos.
If you're employing builders for home improvements, tell them if you think there is asbestos in your home before they start work. Telling them in advance means they can be prepared and take the right precautions.
Fires involving asbestos
In older buildings asbestos was often used as a component of building materials, such as roofing panels, installation board and floor tiles. When material contains a proportion of asbestos it is usually described as an asbestos containing material or ACM. Most asbestos fibres are held tightly within the ACM and are trapped within the cement and do not pose a danger to health when left undisturbed.
What are the health risks associated with ACMs?
During a fire, visible fragments of ACM can be carried in the smoke plume and may be deposited on nearby properties, gardens, or streets. As most asbestos fibres are bound within the ACM they are not released into the air, and this minimises the health risk. However, if this material is handled or broken up there is a chance that fibres can be released in the air. It is only breathing in asbestos fibres that present a health risk. For this reason, it is best not to handle the fragments yourself in case they break up in the process, but to leave this to specialists.
I have debris from a fire on my property, what should I do?
If you find ash and debris from a fire involving ACM on your property you are advised to leave it alone and to contact your insurer for advice. If there is evidence of debris in the garden you should avoid disturbing the material, for example do not mow the lawn until it has been cleared up and removed. You may also find that you have an amount of dust and soot on your property which is unlikely to contain any asbestos.
If it is necessary to clean away debris and dust urgently, for example to use your car, you could move or remove debris yourself by following these steps:
- Gently damp down the debris using a fine water mist spray
- Wearing protective gloves, gently pick up larger pieces carefully, place them within two plastic bags (one within the other, i.e. double bagged)
- Wipe away any dust with a damp cloth and place it in the bags – do not wash it
- Seal the bags
- Store them securely until they can be taken away by a specialist contractor (which your insurer should provide). Do not sweep up or vacuum debris as this could create airborne dust.
Asbestos is present in small quantities in both urban and rural air in the UK and so we all breathe in small amounts of asbestos fibres over our lifetimes. The amount you may have breathed in from one fire is likely to be insignificant in comparison with our overall background exposure during our lives.
It is illegal for you to carry out certain works, including the removal of:
- pipe lagging
- spray coatings
- asbestos insulation board
For works that you can carry out (for example, removal of corrugated asbestos sheets), you'll need to take some safety measures. Please follow the Asbestos Essentials Advice provided by the HSE.
You must not:
- place asbestos waste in your normal household waste
- take asbestos materials to a recycling centre
- contact a licensed contractor (check the yellow pages or online for companies)
- or take the asbestos to a licensed transfer site (you can find one on Norfolk County Council’s website)
If you have any concerns about how asbestos is being removed from a domestic property during any works (construction or demolition), please contact the Health and Safety Executive by completing their concerns form as they will enforce any aspects of Health and Safety.
If you are concerned regarding accumulations of waste and associated dusts, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
For general advice on what to do following a fire involving asbestos material contact email@example.com