Q&A – What prevention measures are crucial in asbestos removal?

Asbestos removal poses significant health risks. It is therefore crucial to ensure proper knowledge and preparation. What minimum prevention measures should you consider to protect the safety of employees?

Inhaling asbestos fibres is harmful to health. For that reason, it is important to handle asbestos-containing materials with care. How you do it depends on the type of material, environment and conditions. 

This means that the essential prevention measures in asbestos removal may vary for each activity. One thing is certain, which is that employees must always wear personal protective equipment and follow a strict work plan. 

What are the common procedures?

You are required to draft a procedure before allowing your employees to remove asbestos. Asbestos measurements are carried out to ensure that all legal guidelines are met.

The steps you need to follow in the procedure may differ for each activity.
Still, there are some that should be included in any workflow:

  • Provide adequate training to the employees involved with regards to the risks and hazards of asbestos (removal).
  • Appoint a minimum number of employees for the removal of asbestos-containing materials. This will ensure that a minimum number of employees are exposed to the harmful fibres.
  • Delineate the work zone.
  • Always apply fixative to the asbestos-containing material to reduce airborne dispersion of asbestos fibres.
  • Use appropriate personal protective equipment. At a minimum, this involves respiratory protection with a P3 filter.
  • List activities involving asbestos-containing materials in the medical records of the employee.

Please note: In most cases, asbestos removal will have to be carried out by specialised firms. This includes asbestos removal when the material is in poor condition or or when your own technical resources are inadequate (e.g. when working at height). Loosely bound material, such as sprayed asbestos or pipe insulation, must also be removed by a specialist. Always check whether the job is allowed to be done internally.

Teach employees how to handle asbestos safely

In the 'Handling asbestos-containing materials' training (Dutch or French), workers learn what the dangers of asbestos are and how to minimise them.

What kinds of personal protective equipment are essential?

Use of appropriate personal protective equipment is of the utmost importance when it comes to asbestos removal. As an employer, you are legally obligated to provide, at a minimum:

  • Respiratory protection 
  • A disposable coverall (Category 3, Type 5)
  • Safety shoes (S3)
  • Cut-resistant gloves (EN388)
  • Dust-free safety goggles (EN166)

The appropriate respiratory protection depends on how much asbestos fibre can be released into the air. This amount tends to be less in bonded applications (e.g. corrugated sheet) than in loosely bound applications (such as pipe insulation and sprayed insulation). 

An FFP3 dust mask is required as a minimum. This suffices, for example, when employees remove corrugated sheets from a roof in good condition. But to avoid inhalation of asbestos fibres as much as possible in a hermetic zone, specialists must wear a positive-pressure mask.

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