The asbestos issue clarified

Let’s clarify the asbestos issue

With the Asbestos Abatement Regulations 2020 enforced by the Department of Employment and Labour, the objective is clear. Damaged asbestos on buildings is dangerous. And so no further damage should be risked in the process of repair or installations of any kind. Building owners are required to have an asbestos assessment and inventory. These should also note the condition of asbestos.

Health and Safety Consultant’s Ingozi’s, managing director, Geoffrey Jäck says structures are installed to keep up with modern technology. And also to reduce demand on energy resources, including satellite dishes and solar panels, these may cause damage to asbestos roofing. This exacerbates the dangers of airborne asbestos fibres.

This is precisely what the Department wishes to avoid and hence the Asbestos Abatement Regulations 2020 which regulate the management and removal of asbestos. The risks to workers, visitors and the public are far too great to warrant the potential damage to asbestos that the installation of various substructures are likely to cause.

Department of employment and labour

The Department of Employment and Labour is committed to the total removal of asbestos on roofs for the safety of all. The regulations call for an asbestos management plan that details the removal of damaged asbestos.

Jäck says that removing asbestos in itself carries significant risks. Asbestos removal is done under strict control measures including air monitoring. Entry into asbestos construction sites is prohibited with workers and visitors required to wear asbestos related personal protection equipment.

The prolonged release of asbestos fibres emanating from damaged asbestos has far-reaching consequences. Asbestos was used in construction up to and beyond the 1980s. This is now reaching the end of its lifespan and is deteriorating more rapidly. Left on buildings, damaged asbestos releases fibres into the air. After sustained inhalation, will pose a health risk to people who work in, or visit these buildings regularly.

energy crisis

While we face an energy crisis and increased loadshedding, coupled with potential future water restrictions, generators, solar panels and water tanks are increasingly becoming a necessity to mitigate these challenges, the dangers present from damaged and deteriorating asbestos cannot be ignored.

Jäck urges building owners not to panic. However, an asbestos assessment should be carried out first to ascertain the state of all asbestos on a building. Consequently, should there be no damage, another assessment need only be done again after 24 months. In such cases the asbestos, which is still in a good condition, does not need to be removed.

Should an assessment reveal that a small section requires removal, this can be done according to the Regulations. And as such, this must be by a Type 1 registered asbestos contractor. For example, larger areas, complete removal of damaged asbestos roofing is required. A Type 2 or 3 registered asbestos contractor must be commissioned.

Installation of structures will require the asbestos roof sheeting to be removed entirely, even if the asbestos is in a good condition.

notification from the department

A letter from the Department to contractors states “ The drilling into asbestos cement roof sheets at any speed may release fibres and will be increasing the surface area of the asbestos material causing asbestos dust. Replacing screws or even using existing screw-holes will cause risk of abasing the asbestos roof sheets and release fibres during the process of installation and afterwards. Although processes could well be controlled during installation, after installation the client’s employees are still left with the asbestos material in place, but now with a greater surface area for asbestos fibre release, possible damage to the sheets that was worked on, and a greater possibility for abrasion of the asbestos materials due to the slightest movement. The asbestos roof sheets will be left in place on the building and eventual abatement of the asbestos will be VERY unlikely.

“Furthermore, with solar panels or “over-roofing” sheets installed over asbestos sheets, inspection and maintenance is restricted, if not prevented.”

Jäck says that it is best to avoid installing structures on asbestos roofs. Not only because the law says so, but installing a structure only to be removed later will be financially restrictive.

Ingozi offers advice on options available fore solar installations and roof replacements when considering these installations on your building.

For more about the LAW, read here