HOW TO DO IT BY THE BOOK
The new regulations on
asbestos cement – once
widely used in farm buildings –
came in more than a year ago.
But theres still confusion
as to their implications.
Graham Lochhead, senior
consultant with GFA-RACE,
the consultancy arm of the
Royal Agricultural College,
and senior lecturer in farm
buildings at the college,
looks at whats involved
THERE can be little question over the benefits that asbestos cement products have brought to farm building design and construction over the years. They have been widely used, with most farm buildings containing some asbestos cement products. Mostly, these are in roof and wall sheets, and they generally have a serviceable life of about 100years.
In November 1999 the Asbestos (Prohibitions) (Amendments) Regula-tions banned the sale of all asbestos products within the UK. This ban doesnt include asbestos cement in existing buildings, but it does have implications for the repair, maintenance and demolition of buildings where it was used. It also bans the resale and re-use of second-hand products.
In general, unless sheeting or cladding is damaged or requires removal, the regulations do not apply, but the material should be monitored for condition. Asbestos materials should be managed using common-sense principles:
• If they are sound, undamaged and show no sign of being in need of repair, do not disturb them.
• If they are unsound, damaged or in need of repair, then protect or reseal them.
• If they are beyond repair, remove them in accordance with HSE guidelines.
These guidelines are contained in two documents, Controlled Asbestos Stripping Techniques [HSG 189/1] and Working with Asbestos Cement [HSG 189/2]. Both are aimed at contractors working with, or coming into contact with, asbestos products. They are not aimed at the farm DIY situation; DIY asbestos removal and disposal is not advised.
The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations (CAWR) are expected to be modified and released in the Spring of this year (2001), and will introduce a duty to manage asbestos in non-domestic premises – such as farms. Those responsible for the workplace are expected to have to:
• Find out whether asbestos is present in their buildings
• Assume that it is asbestos unless proved otherwise
• Keep records of location and extent
• Prepare and carry out plans to manage potential risks
• Provide information to anyone liable to come into contact with asbestos
The practical implications
To be safe, only a competent contractor should carry out maintenance, repair and removal. They should provide method statements (a written description of exactly how they will do the work) following a risk assessment of the project.
They should also clearly define the working area, wear suitable protective clothing, and keep material sealed or wet when working. Where disposal is required, the products should be double-wrapped in plastic – or placed in a secure skip – and the site should be cleaned before departure.
You are allowed to repair claddings and other products using the existing asbestos cement product, but the official advice is to replace it with a non-asbestos, fibre-reinforced product instead. Any waste products should be disposed of within HSE guidelines.
Disposal of Asbestos Products
When products containing asbestos are removed they should be disposed of under the Special Waste Regulations 1996. This stipulates that the waste must be removed from site by a licensed haulier and disposed of in a dump licensed to take asbestos.
The exception to this rule is that waste products containing asbestos can be buried on the farm from which they came. Watch out though. The burial of this waste on the farm may re-designate the land as contaminated, possibly reducing the potential value of the land at some point in the future.
What will it cost?
Getting contractors in to remove asbestos waste can be expensive. On a recent project, the cost of demolition and removal of a simple 20m x 10m (60ft x 30ft) hayshed, constructed of pre-cast concrete frame and asbestos cement roof, varied from £6000 to £14,000. Most of this was for handling the asbestos waste.
• The farmer/farm manager has a duty of care to himself and to his workforce, so be aware of the location of asbestos on the farm and record it.
• Employ competent contractors or professionals to advise or carry out work on asbestos products.
• Make repairs by replacing whole panels. Dont clean sheets or cut them with an angle-grinder.
• For demolition and removal, ensure that the contractor carries out a risk assessment and prepares a method for removal. Request receipts from the dumpsite to ensure compliance with HSE regulations.
• Think twice about disposal on site as this may reduce the value of the land and may incur a greater cost penalty in the future. This could include clean-up costs if classified as contaminated land.
• If in doubt, seek advice through the HSE via its website www.hse.gov.uk or HSEs Infoline 08701 545500.