There has been extensive use of asbestos on buildings since the 1940’s for a variety of reasons; for noise-proofing, decoration, to fire-proof large buildings, schools and hospitals. As this practice became standard by the 1950’s, it increased the risk of asbestos exposure, which can have very adverse health effects. Sprayed asbestos gradually crumbles with time and releases fibers in the air, which can be inhaled by people around; it can even be circulated all around the building through the air-conditioning.
Asbestos removal procedures can eliminate the hazard, but it has to be done with careful control systems, with the help of experts experienced in earth moving work and in handling asbestos waste and its removal. All aspects of the asbestos removal procedure have to be supervised and the workforce has to be knowledgeable in similar work. All companies engaged in the asbestos removal procedure have to be registered under Territory or State legislation.
- Before starting the asbestos removal procedure, the risks have to be assessed. A safety procedure for the work has to be put into place; dust and fibers being released into the air should be minimized and exposure has to be avoided. Asbestos that crumbles easily presents the gravest risk as it releases fibers into the air. Bonded asbestos is less risky, as it does not release fibers in the atmosphere if it is in undamaged condition.
- Protective clothing, disposable coveralls and respirators have to be used by the workers engaged in the asbestos removal procedure. Hand tools (non-powered) generate much less dust and are therefore safer to use. If possible, the asbestos material should be wetted down to prevent the dust from rising. The workers should be in a well- ventilated area; all asbestos pieces should be put into bags and labeled as “asbestos waste”.
- For doing external work during the asbestos removal procedure, all doors and windows of the building should be closed. Signs with warnings of the asbestos removal procedure in progress and necessary barriers should be put up. If possible, the asbestos sheets should be sealed with PVA type paint, or made damp with water.
- Workers engaged in asbestos removal procedures have to be in coveralls and use approved respirators. Asbestos sheets should be removed with the least breakage during the asbestos removal procedure; they should not be dropped but lowered to the ground.
- Removed sheets should be put into polythene sheeting, wrapped, and sealed before disposal. The sheets should not be left on the site; they may get broken or crushed. The asbestos residues should be cleaned with the appropriate vacuum cleaner. The masks and coveralls used during the operation should be placed with the rest of the asbestos waste into bags and removed.
- The concerned authority for environmental protection or local council for waste disposal has to be contacted at the time of removal from site. The asbestos waste has to be kept damp; it must be labeled and sealed in leak-proof, plastic containers. It should be taken away from the area as fast as possible and transported in covered vehicles. It has to be disposed of in an area which has the EPA’s approval or other disposal authority. A post air monitoring exercise has to be conducted at the site.
Thus you must follow this basic asbestos removal procedure while asbestos is being removed for maintaining a healthy environment.