What is asbestos?
Asbestos is the name given to a group of fibrous minerals found naturally in many parts of the world. In the past, asbestos was added to a variety of products to strengthen them and to provide fire proofing and noise reduction.
The use of all asbestos materials was banned in the UK in 1999. Homes built after 1999 are extremely unlikely to contain asbestos anywhere in the building.
What is wrong with asbestos?
Normally there is nothing wrong with asbestos, however, when asbestos materials age or become damaged they may release fibres into the air. The fibres, if breathed in, could lead to asbestos-related diseases. People who have worked with asbestos for many years as part of their job are most likely to be affected. Most occurrences of asbestos in housing are of low risk and unlikely to harm your health.
Where is asbestos found?
Places where you might find asbestos are:
- Corrugated cement based sheeting on sheds and garages.
- Cement based soffits, downpipes and gutters.
- Fire surrounds and flues.
- Toilet cisterns and seats.
- Textured decorative coatings used on ceilings and walls (“Artex” or “Sandex”).
- Vinyl floor tiles and the bitumen adhesive used to glue them in place.
- Inside fuse boxes.
- Fireproof panels on fire doors.
Can you see asbestos?
You can’t actually see asbestos as the fibres are very small. To check for asbestos, we need to take samples and send it to a specialist laboratory to be tested.
What are your responsibilities?
If you think asbestos-containing materials may be in your home, don’t panic! Asbestos-containing materials in good condition will not release asbestos fibres. There’s no danger unless the fibres are released and inhaled into the lungs.
- Check material regularly if you suspect it may contain asbestos. Don’t touch it, but look for signs of wear and tear, such as tears, abrasions or water damage. If damage or deterioration is apparent, please let us know on freephone 0800 358 6025.
- Make sure you get permission from us before you carry out any work that will change the structure or fabric of your home. If you carry out any work, or permit others to carry out work, without written approval, you might be putting yourself and your family at risk. In addition, you will be liable for any costs of dealing with any asbestos incidents.
- Don’t drill, cut or disturb asbestos-containing materials.
- Don’t scrape or sand asbestos-containing materials before decorating. Some types of asbestos-containing materials are very soft and can release large numbers of fibres if rubbed or scraped.
- Don’t remove any suspected asbestos-containing products and try to dispose of them at your local council’s refuse site.
- Don’t sweep asbestos dust or debris as this sends asbestos fibres into the air.
What are our responsibilities?
Due to the possible health risks, we have a duty to manage asbestos in the common parts of the buildings we own. This may include the stairwells or landings of a block of flats.
We must find out whether the premises contain asbestos, and, if so, where it is and what condition it is in. We must assess the risk from asbestos present in the premises and then make a plan to manage that risk and act on it.
The regulations don’t currently extend to your individual homes. However, as a responsible landlord, we undertake detailed asbestos surveys of your homes during improvement works and when a property becomes empty. When you move in to a property we will give you a copy of the asbestos report for your home.
We will ensure that any asbestos-containing material is maintained in a safe condition and, where necessary, we will remove it.
To help us to do this, our team of surveyors have undertaken asbestos sampling training that allows them to take samples of suspected asbestos-containing material. This will then be tested in a laboratory and the results placed onto our database.
Any identified asbestos-containing material left in your home will be in good condition. Please do report any change in the condition of any asbestos containing materials.
Removing asbestos-containing material
If there’s a need to remove any asbestos-containing material from your home, we’ll decide on the best course of action.
Dependent upon the type of asbestos-containing material, we may need to appoint a specialist contractor. In this case, the specialist contractor will ensure that the asbestos-containing material is moved safely from your home to a licensed landfill site.
Otherwise, our trained operatives may carry out this work.
Any asbestos-containing material removed from your home will be double-wrapped in plastic and taped. Once this removal work has been carried out we need to ensure that the asbestos-containing material is disposed of safely in a government-licensed landfill site.
To comply with legislation, we can transport some asbestos-containing material, providing supporting paperwork is in place. This paperwork will track the route from your home to the waste transfer station, before being disposed of at a landfill site. Therefore, there may be occasions where the double wrapped asbestos-containing material will be left in a safe place outside your home awaiting collection.
The double wrapped package will be clearly marked with a yellow tape, stating “asbestos”. The material is perfectly safe when wrapped in this way, as long as it is not tampered with. It’s important that you do not tamper with, open or move the double wrapped package. We’ll do our best to keep collection time to a minimum.
How to get advice
Where to get further information:
The Health and Safety Executive
If in doubt, seek advice.