There are so many questions that come with asbestos insulation; from why insulation with asbestos was such a popular practice in the first place, to how asbestos insulation identification works, to what cellulose insulation asbestos is, and how you can manage asbestos ceiling insulation, should you identify it in your workplace.
There’s a lot to cover, and we will discuss all of these topics in the following article.
What is asbestos insulation (and why was it such a big thing?)
Asbestos is a substance that was used as insulation for a time period spanning the early 1900s to the late 1980s. It was used primarily to insulate buildings, machines, tapes, cloths, gaskets, seals and brake linings in cars.
This is because asbestos has a number of attributes that made it ideal for construction at the time, such as its;
- Low thermal conductivity
- Fireproof surface
It wasn’t until an extended period of time into the usage of asbestos insulation that people became aware of its health hazards, leading to its widespread ban.
Why was insulation with asbestos discontinued?
In the 1950s onwards, more and more cases of asbestosis started to arise on construction sites, as power tools broke asbestos containing materials and caused asbestos particles to go airborne – where they’d be inhaled by construction workers.
As asbestos fibres make their way into the lungs, they cause extensive damage that result in severe illness and death. As asbestosis became increasingly common, regulations started being introduced in 1978 to curb asbestos use in insulation.
However, it wasn’t until 2003 that the Government would implement a nationwide ban that saw the end of asbestos use in insulation.
What is loose-fill asbestos?
Loose fill asbestos (also known as asbestosfluf) describes the kind of asbestos used as ceiling insulation when asbestos was used prominently in construction. Its name is derived from its fluffy composition, as the asbestos was not held together with a bonding agent, instead being sprayed into roofing spaces.
Loose fill asbestos is extremely friable, and its use led to widespread asbestosis. This played a heavy role in the banning of asbestos usage in construction which began in the 1990s and concluded with a nationwide ban in 2003.
What is the process of asbestos insulation identification?
Asbestos insulation identification is a difficult process if not performed correctly. This is because asbestos consists of fibres that are invisible to the naked eye. That’s why asbestos is typically categorised by the materials in which it is contained.
However, there is a simple method in place for workplaces to effectively identify and manage asbestos containing materials (ACMs). This method ensures the safety of your employees by eliminating the hazards of asbestos exposure.
1. Have the area suspected to contain asbestos assessed
The first step to identifying asbestos containing materials in your workplace is to assume that they are there. This sounds counterintuitive, right? Surely you can’t just assume that a material contains asbestos based on a hunch. However, the alternative is not worth the risk.
So, if you suspect that there is a surface in your workplace that contains asbestos, the correct course of action is to consult a qualified asbestos assessor to ensure the safety of both you and your coworkers.
2. Appoint an asbestos management coordinator
When it comes to asbestos management; coordination is key. Because the point of asbestos management is maintaining the safety of your workplace, time is critical.
To that end, it is important to appoint a qualified coordinator in your team to oversee all asbestos management efforts. Having a single person in charge of asbestos management is a lot more efficient than needing to defer to different people in order to enact your asbestos management procedures.
3. Prepare an asbestos registry
Once asbestos has been identified, it needs to be documented inside a register. Ideally, you will already have had that register made beforehand to include all areas where ACMs have been identified, whether they are accessible or inaccessible.
The register plays an important role in asbestos management, as it acts as a central hub that both you and your employees can easily access for reference. That’s why it is important to be thorough when collecting information for the register.
4. Eliminate, enclose or seal asbestos
When addressing the asbestos containing materials directly, your options are:
- Hiring a professional asbestos removal specialist in order to have the asbestos containing materials safely removed
- Use barriers and wayfinding in order to direct your employees away from potentially dangerous asbestos containing materials, removing the risk of them accidentally disturbing the ACM and causing asbestos exposure
- If possible, use your organisation’s resources to seal the asbestos containing materials away where there is no chance of them being disturbed
5. Keep your workplace informed
This isn’t just a matter of sending a work email to everyone. You need to make sure that, before you encounter any ACMs, you have a system in place that informs everybody attending your workplace where asbestos is located (and where it may be disturbed).
This is another one of those measures that eliminates the risk of anybody attending your office building accidentally displacing ACMs and releasing asbestos particles into the air.
6. Label your ACMs
In order to make sure that anybody who enters your building is aware of any risks pertaining to asbestos containing materials, it is important to label your ACMs with clear and legible signage that is easy to understand.
Additionally, you need to brief your staff on the labelling so that they are aware of what it means. You also need to make sure that your staff are made aware of any changes you make to the labelling.
7. Update your registers
Keep your registers up to date and revise them at least every five years. This means updating them in important ACM related events such as;
- When ACMs are removed from your workplace by a qualified professional
- When you create an enclosure to restrict movement surrounding any ACMs
- When you seal off an area that potentially contains ACMs
Not only is this for your employees’ safety, it is also to ensure that your business is complicit with Government regulations concerning asbestos containing materials.
What is cellulose insulation?
Cellulose insulation is a safe alternative to asbestos insulation. It involves the use of chemically treated recycled paper to provide the same kind of insulation, draught proofing and noise reduction that asbestos insulation provides, but without the health hazards that stem from asbestos fibres.
How can Octfolio help me manage asbestos insulation?
Octfolio is a simple yet comprehensive asbestos software solution that lets you control the management of your asbestos assets, including asbestos insulation. It contains every function that you need in order to successfully handle all aspects of asbestos management services, including;
- Asset management
- Report management
- Document management
- Maintenance management
- Digital asbestos register
- Field data collection
- Automated reporting
- Workflow automation
- Asbestos mapping software