Asbestos is a highly heat-resistant fibrous silicate mineral that can be woven into fabrics, and is used in brake linings and in fire-resistant and insulating materials. It has six sub-classifications: chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. Among these, chrysotile and amosite asbestos are the most common.
Although asbestos fibers are microscopic in nature, they are extremely durable and resistant to fire and most chemical reactions and breakdowns. These properties of asbestos were the reasons that supported its use for many years in a number of different commercial and industrial capacities.
The strength of asbestos, combined with its resistance to heat, allowed it to become the material of choice in a variety of products, including, but not limited to, roofing shingles, floor tiles, ceiling materials, cement compounds, textile products, thermal insulation material, fire protective material and automotive parts. Asbestos is now strictly regulated as exposure to this toxic mineral can now be directly and scientifically linked to a number of lung and respiratory health conditions.
The main objectives of the asbestos regulations is to prohibit the use, processing or manufacturing, of any asbestos or asbestos-containing product unless it can be proven that no suitable alternative exists.
South Africa has been prohibiting the import or export of any asbestos or asbestos-containing product, and will also stop the import of any asbestos or asbestos containing waste material other than from a member of the Southern African Development Community. The regulations do, however, make provision for asbestos to be used for research purposes.
Where is asbestos found?
Asbestos, often mixed with cement, was mostly used in buildings and can be found in roofs, gutters, pipes, boilers, ceiling tiles, insulation boards, sprayed coatings and many other products. In fact, asbestos was so popular during the past century that more than 3000 articles contained it, some of which are still found in their original form.
What is the danger?
Asbestos fibres inhaled into the lungs may cause a range of serious lung diseases, including asbestosis (scarring of the lung), lung cancer and mesothelioma (a malignant and fatal tumour that grows on the lining of the lung).
Early symptoms of disease may include chest pain and shortness of breath, leading in more advanced stages, to respiratory failure, cardiac arrest and death. What is important to remember is that it may take 15 to 50 years from first contact with the asbestos fibre for disease to develop. During this long “dormant” period no symptoms are experienced and when the disease is diagnosed it is fatal, as there is no cure.
How big is the problem?
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide there are more than 100 000 asbestos related deaths per year and that, currently, 125 million workers are exposed to the deadly fibre. In the United Kingdom, the death toll is estimated at approximately 3 500 per year and, in the USA, 10 000 per year. This is nothing less than a global epidemic! In South Africa about 200 mesothelioma cases are reported per year but this is most likely an underestimate considering the magnitude of mining and processing that took place in a country that was a leading global supplier of all types of asbestos.
How to recognise asbestos material?
Asbestos in buildings is present in either loose, friable form (such as loose insulation material) or, more often, hidden within another material (such as asbestos cement products). Fibres might be visible in the friable form but are seldom seen in asbestos-cement and similar products. In both cases it is not possible to identify asbestos with certainty by visual examination alone and laboratory analysis is often required. Since March 2008 asbestos is effectively banned in South Africa, and it is unlikely to find Asbestos Containing Materials(ACM) in buildings constructed after that year. The golden rule is always: when in doubt assume the material contains asbestos!
Who may be in danger?
Any person that, knowingly or unknowingly, performs work on asbestos or ACM, and any person that happens to be in the vicinity of such work, is in danger.
Particularly at risk are people in the building and construction related professions such as roofing contractors, heating and ventilation engineers, building and demolition contractors, electricians, plumbers, joiners, tradesmen, carpenters, painters, etc.
What are the legal requirements related to asbestos?
The South African Department of Labour (DOL) Asbestos Regulations (No.155 of 2002) prohibit an employer or a self-employed individual from carrying out work that will put any person at risk from asbestos exposure.
The Regulations also require that, where asbestos forms part of a building, plant or premises, steps are taken to ensure that the asbestos is identified and that potential exposure of any person to the fibres is prevented or adequately controlled.
No work is allowed to take place on asbestos or ACMs before a written work plan has been devised and the necessary precautionary measures have been taken.
In cases where asbestos is left in place, an Asbestos Management Plan must be introduced. Furthermore it is required by law that the asbestos be assessed and monitored every 24 months and that appropriate action is taken if the nature of it has changed.
Demolition or removal of asbestos and ACMs can only be carried out by an approved asbestos contractor.
Source : The Occupational Hygiene Section of the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH)
Bidvest TMS Industrial Services is a registered and approved asbestos removal contractor / service provider at the DOL. Our highly skilled and trained employees, the required equipment, method statements, processes and procedures are fully compliant with all relevant governing laws, by-laws, rules and regulations. We have a national footprint and therefore able to render services to clients on a national basis.
Our extensive experience in asbestos removal and management covers a diverse range of industries and spaces which include:
Power generation plants
Heavy industrial plants
The detailed process and procedure we follow include:
Survey Reporting (Report contain the full quantification and type of asbestos to be removed from a specific area including recommendations and preferred actions to be taken).
DOL notification (this notification needs to be submitted to the DOL before commencement of any works).
Breaking or dismantling of asbestos materials
Safe packaging of asbestos materials
Safe disposal of asbestos materials (safe disposal certificate (SDC) to be issued to client)
We have experience in the removal, dismantling, transport & disposal of asbestos materials contained in the following areas:
Asbestos roof sheeting
Asbestos facia boards
Asbestos window sills
Asbestos prefabricated boards/buildings
Asbestos Insulation of pipes and wall
Our asbestos specialists are trained annually and receive updates with regards to the asbestos regulations pertaining to the removal and dismantling works. A medical certificate is also done annually.
We submit a safety file to the client for each and every asbestos removal project which includes all relevant safety requirements and specifications requested by the client.
Note: Remediation must only be completed by a suitable qualified, authorised and approved organisation which is registered with the Department of Labour (DOL).