Last week it was reported online by Scotland’s Daily Record that a sheet of asbestos was dropped 120 feet during the demolition of condemned tower block, Red Row Flats, onto nursery grounds as children played outside.
It was the second time an item of dismantled material was carelessly handled as just a few days previously, a window pane was dropped, also landing onto the nursery grounds. Despite the presence of dozens of children, fortunately, there were no serious injuries on either occasions.
However, the dropping of the asbestos sheet, almost certain to be Asbestos Insulating Board (AIB), containing dangerous and potentially fatal white chrysotile, could have very serious repercussions indeed. Although there was a distance between the demolition perimeter fence and the play area, debris from the asbestos material was reported to have scattered across a wider area, and the strong likelihood of deadly asbestos fibre dust being released into the surrounding atmosphere.
One again, as in so many previous cases reported where asbestos was involved, the demolition firm responsible claimed that the “unfortunate occurrence could not have been foreseen.”
Yet both construction and demolition industry regulations absolutely require personnel to receive full and detailed asbestos awareness training and information about what to do when they discover any asbestos material on a premises they will be working in. This includes pre-site checks and arrangements for proper asbestos removal by authorised and certificated contractors.
The ‘General Requirements’ of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 include:
Licensing of work with asbestos.
Notification of work with asbestos.
Information, instruction and training.
Arrangements to deal with accidents, incidents and emergencies.
Professional demolition companies would certainly know that asbestos was widely used as a key building material in the construction of private homes, housing estates and high rise flats right up until the 1970s/80s at least. White chrysotile asbestos was still being used many years later despite the introduction of Asbestos Regulations to “manage asbestos contact”.
The Health & Safety Executive (HSS) repeatedly circulate awareness campaigns reinforcing guidelines and recently announced that new tougher measures would be imposed on companies not complying with asbestos regulations.
Throughout the twentieth century, years of exposure and breathing in of the deadly asbestos fibre dust across the UK’s heavy engineering and manufacturing industries led to many thousands of workers to contract the fatal asbestos diseases of asbestosis and the aggressive and incurable cancer, mesothelioma.
It is well documented that even a single incident of exposure is still high risk as the asbestos fibres remain embedded in the pleural linings and asbestosis symptoms only become apparent when first diagnosed some 15 to 50 years later. Often, it is only at this point that an asbestosis lawyer is called upon to help with making a mesothelioma claim when the unfortunate victim, now suffering at an advanced stage of the disease, may only have less than one year to live.