Despite being outlawed in the UK in 2000, it can still be found in millions of older homes, business premises and public buildings which pre-date the 1999 Asbestos Regulation legislation. It poses a very real risk, especially for those working in any kind of manufacturing or construction industry, as exposure to asbestos fibres can result in a myriad of serious health issues.
Revered for its seemingly magical properties for centuries, the use of asbestos throughout history was rife, due to its qualities which include sound absorption, affordability, strength, and resistance to fire, heat and electricity. The Ancient Persians used to entertain their guests by throwing their asbestos napkins into roaring fires to clean them, and by the end of the 19th century, its use had become increasingly widespread. Such prolific use led to the discovery that inhalation of asbestos fibres led to mesothelioma and asbestosis in the early 20th century, although it wasn’t officially banned until the turn of the 21st century.
As a result, asbestos still presents a big issue for the lift industry, as it’s still commonly found in older buildings. Despite the ruling that any building must built pre-2000 must undergo a full asbestos survey, the lift shaft and motor room are often overlooked during safety checks, causing significant risk to workers when lift maintenance is required.
Risks Asbestos materials present a risk to health when the fibres become airborne. This occurs during cutting, drilling or breaking asbestos-containing materials during work or maintenance. When inhaled regularly, even small jobs can prove dangerous, so it’s vital for lift maintenance companies that significant checks have been undertaken before they begin a project.
Asbestos in Lifts Because of its fire and heat resistance properties, asbestos was liberally used in lift manufacturing pre-2000. It’s commonly found around elevators and in control rooms, on the back of the landing, car doors, asbestos rope inside trunking, brake linings and flash guards. Today, if asbestos is present on an elevator system, the site owner could risk hefty fines under Construction, Design and Management (CDM) regulations, especially if they’ve failed to ever carry out an asbestos inspection.
Responsibilities The lift owner or facilities manager should carry out an Asbestos Survey as soon as the contract or tender is produced with their chosen lift company. Under CDM regulations, lift owners should then produce an Asbestos Register which indicates asbestos is located or where there might be asbestos. Prior to a lift company beginning their maintenance work on the site, asbestos should be removed from anywhere where it could cause harm. It is ultimately the client’s responsibility to make the lift shaft and motor room safe.
Safety First If there is a suspicion that asbestos is present, work must be stopped immediately and workers need to report the areas where asbestos has been found to the client. Although it’s the client’s responsibility to check for asbestos, it’s vital that lift companies sufficiently educate their employees during training on how to recognise it and how to keep safe.