Public ‘not at risk’ from asbestos after Glasgow nightclub fire

One of the sternest recent tests for the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service occurred on the morning of Thursday 22nd March, when a fire took hold in the roof of a building on Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street that it was initially feared could spread to nearby structures such as the historic Pavilion Theatre.

Thankfully, that dreaded scenario did not come to pass, although the decision was made by Glasgow City Council not to allow staff access to the theatre for about two months amid concerns about smoke damage and damage caused to some of the venue’s doors by fire-fighters.

Nonetheless, one positive development is the fire service’s statement that there is “no risk” to the public of being exposed to asbestos as a result of the sad blaze.

Vital atmospheric testing undertaken

 According to a fire service spokesperson on 23rd March, atmospheric testing had been carried out and “concluded that there is no risk to the public from asbestos.”

However, the council deemed buildings at 92-96 and 98-106 – the latter including Victoria’s nightclub – to be unsafe, adding that they would have to be demolished.

The fire broke out at about 8:20am on the Thursday, and at its height, more than 120 fire-fighters and 20 fire engines were mobilised to the city centre.

What dangers can asbestos pose in fires like this?

 While worries about the asbestos risk from this particular high-profile fire have thankfully been quelled, that does not mean your own buildings could not pose such a danger in the event of a devastating conflagration like this.

The use of asbestos in buildings in the UK was completely banned before the end of the 20th century, but the harmful material may still be present in properties built or revamped before then.

Asbestos was once widely used in such areas of buildings as under the floorboards, boilers, pipework, insulation, calorifiers and heat exchangers. If a person inhales asbestos fibres, some may become trapped in the organs and cause deadly diseases such as lung cancer, asbestosis or malignant mesothelioma. Thousands of deaths each year are linked to asbestos-related diseases.

Don’t leave asbestos removals to chance

 If you are unsure whether the users or occupants of your buildings or members of the public could be exposed to asbestos on your premises, it’s essential to avoid any unnecessary risks.

Instead, get on the phone to our experts in asbestos removals here at Trident Asbestos Solutions today, calling 03333 441555 for your competitive quotation.  

Asbestos remains prevalent in British school buildings

Asbestos in schools

It seems that every day or week, a new story emerges drawing attention to the fact that asbestos is far from a thing of the past, and that it is in fact continuing to be breathed in by new victims. One such story was that recently published in the Daily Express, revealing that almost nine in every 10 British school buildings still harbour the potentially fatal fibres.

The figures, which will be of great interest to many of those educational and other organisations contemplating investment in asbestos air testing and awareness training, were sourced from Freedom of Information requests to local authorities. They showed that the lethal dust is still present in 86 per cent of the country’s schools, which is much higher than previously thought.

However, leading asbestos expert Professor Julian Peto warned that it would be too expensive to remove all of the fibres, given that such a task would entail rebuilding schools and would “only save” 25 deaths a year. He added that it would be predominantly those over the age of 70 who would die as a result of any exposure during childhood.

The figures were obtained by campaigning group Asbestos in Schools, with founder Michael Lees accusing successive governments of brushing the issue “under the carpet” given the decades that it can take for the disease to develop. He bemoaned the “large number” of children who were exposed to asbestos in schools, which he said was “contributing to the terrible death toll.”

Father-of-two Mr Lees lost his then 51-year old primary school teacher wife, Gina, to the deadly asbestos-linked disease of the covering of the lungs, mesothelioma, in 2000. He described as “a step in the right direction” a review last week that ordered that teachers should be given compulsory asbestos training.

Of the 2,535 deaths a year in Britain that are attributed to mesothelioma, it is thought that 300 involved exposure to asbestos in schools.

Talk to Trident Surveying today about not just the appropriate asbestos awareness training for your own organisation, but also the most professional asbestos air testing and monitoring service. The latter encompasses four stage clearance testing, reassurance air tests, leak air tests and background air tests.

Family of late asbestos victim appeals for information

asbestos management

 

Comprehensive asbestos surveys in Birmingham may now thankfully be widespread practice, but that has sadly come too late for many of those to come into contact with the lethal substance. One such person was West Bromwich father-of-four Gary Williams, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma in October 2012, before dying in July 2013.

Although mesothelioma – a cancer in the lining of the lungs – is strongly associated with exposure to the deadly dust, his family is still unsure exactly how that occurred, leading his daughter, Claire, to appeal for information from her father’s one-time colleagues at Rugeley Power Station, where he previously worked as a scaffolder.

It was initially the 66-year old himself who instructed Irwin Mitchell’s specialist industrial disease solicitors to investigate whether every possible measure was taken to avoid him coming into contact with asbestos – a fight for justice that Claire has continued on his behalf. She and Irwin Mitchell are requesting that Gary’s former co-workers at the British Building and Engineering Association (BB and EA) between 1965 and 1971 get in touch with them.

Not only is it thought that these workers could possess invaluable evidence concerning the substance’s presence at the various sites where Gary was contracted to work, but they may also be able to provide insight into the company’s working conditions. Gary was handed his devastating diagnosis of terminal disease at a time when the family was still struggling to come to terms with his wife Betty’s sudden death in summer 2012.

HSE reassures public on asbestos removal in Hounslow

HSE reassures public that asbestos was removed from Hounslow demolition site

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If there is one recent story that will surely remind organisations across the UK of the importance of having demolition surveys of doomed structures carried out prior to destruction work beginning, it has to be that concerning the Hounslow House site in the English capital’s London Road.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has reassured residents living near the building – which is being demolished for Tesco in readiness for the construction of 267 homes – that asbestos had already been removed from the site before work began. Fears had been raised with the collapse of an office block on the site in July, householders expressing concerns that the highly toxic substance could be present in the dust covering their balconies and windowsills.

However, HSE told getwestlondon that “Asbestos present was removed under license prior to demolition commencing and was completed last year.”

The office block’s partial collapse last year had resulted in rubble crashing into the nearby Hounslow bus garage, and prompted HSE to momentarily halt destruction at the site. A few weeks ago, work was allowed to resume, following the implementation of more stringent safety measures by the company responsible. The cause of the collapse is still under investigation by HSE.

However, residents remain unconvinced by the new safety measures, with Aces Court resident Bernard Zieja claiming that the amount of dust made people reluctant to open their windows or use their balconies.

Describing the present dust protection measures as “inadequate”, the photographer added: “I think we should be separated from the demolition site by a tall scaffolding covered by protective curtains. I have seen this done in central London and I wonder why this is not being done here in Hounslow.”

An HSE spokeswoman said that dust complaints were a matter for Hounslow Council, which has previously warned the company carrying out the demolition work about undertaking noisy work outside permitted hours.

Contact Trident Surveying about professional demolition surveys. Formerly known as Type 3 surveys, these surveys are required before all or part of a building is demolished, and our company has extensive experience of carrying them out to the very highest standards.

Results announced of HSE’s latest asbestos management in schools inspections

 

Asbestos in Schools

Asbestos in Schools

A timely reminder of the importance of the right asbestos management surveys in educational establishments is the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) publication of the results of its most recent asbestos in schools inspection initiative.

The period between April 2013 and January 2014 saw the inspection by HSE of a carefully selected random sample of 153 schools outside local authority control, including independent, voluntary aided and foundation schools, academies and free schools.

71 per cent of the inspected schools were not required to make any changes to their present asbestos management arrangements or were given straightforward, simple advice. HSE did give written advice to 29 per cent (44 schools), and needed to take enforcement action for 13 per cent (20 schools). This action was in the form of improvement notices setting out a requirement for recipient schools to adjust their asbestos management arrangements.

Failures like training staff and the production of written management plans attracted enforcement action – not due to pupils or staff being deemed at significant risk of exposure, but because these are vital elements of the required control measures.

The new survey showed an overall improvement in compliance with the Control of Asbestos Regulations in England, Scotland and Wales compared to the findings of a similar programme that inspected 164 non-local authority schools in 2010/11, when 28 schools had 41 improvement notices served upon them.

The Head of HSE’s Public Services Sector, Geoff Cox, said that the last few years had seen “a lot of work by stakeholders across the school sector to raise awareness of the duty to manage asbestos. It is really encouraging to see that awareness of the requirements has increased since our previous inspection initiative.

“That said, schools should not be under any illusion – managing asbestos requires ongoing attention. Schools now have access to a wealth of guidance setting out clear and straightforward steps to achieve and maintain compliance. Where duty holders fall below acceptable standards, HSE has taken, and will continue to take, enforcement action.”

All schools are required to have up to date records of materials within their establishment that contain asbestos, so that the school knows the location of such materials that could be damaged or disturbed by normal activities or foreseeable maintenance, or when new equipment is being installed.

There is no significant risk to health posed by asbestos in good condition that remains undamaged and undisturbed, provided that appropriate asbestos management takes place in compliance with the legal requirements and in line with published HSE advice.

Training for maintenance staff whose work could lead to their exposure to asbestos is also essential, with such personnel needing to be made aware of the location and condition of any asbestos in the school.

Why it’s vital to keep up asbestos awareness

Is asbestos a public health problem largely confined to the past? The answer is absolutely not. Indeed, deaths from asbestos – which already exceed those from road accidents each year – are unlikely to peak until 2016. Even then, there are concerns that the level could rise further if the public are not made aware of the potential ongoing risk of asbestos in places of work, premises they may visit and even their own homes.The fact that asbestos ceased to be widely used several decades ago when industry came to appreciate the serious dangers it posed, together with the banning of asbestos in all of its forms in 1999, may lead people to think – quite mistakenly – that there is no longer a need to be aware of or manage asbestos, at least outside certain professions.It’s true that former workers in heavy industry and shipbuilding in the 1960s and 1970s are the most strongly represented group among those to be diagnosed with asbestos related diseases in recent years. But it is also true that many tradesmen and maintenance workers from the 1960’s up until this present day have been and still are being affected by this hazardous material. Today’s workers benefit from much more stringent workplace regulations. However, this ignores one last setting in which people today could still be exposed to asbestos: the home.The widespread use of asbestos in construction for large parts of the 20th century, on account of its great affordability and heat resistance, led to its use in cement, insulating boards,  and even as insulation for wall cavities, pipes and ceilings. It took several decades for people to notice a rise in lung diseases – including pleural plaques, asbestosis, lung cancer and the aggressive chest cancer mesothelioma – in connection with exposure to asbestos fibres.With asbestos fibres often lying dormant in people’s lungs for as long as 50 years following initial exposure, and the symptoms having much in common with various other conditions, spotting mesothelioma often takes too long to save lives. Such clear dangers presented by asbestos only make it all the more important for people to be made aware not only what asbestos is, but also where within the home it may be found.Asbestos was still a routinely used building material when millions of the UK’s present homes were being constructed, and it could still represent a serious health hazard if disturbed – such as by those undertaking DIY. According to a British Lung Foundation survey of 2,000 adults several years ago, 67% said that they could not confidently identify asbestos around the home.However, nor should people feel alarmed or panicked. Asbestos that is in good condition and that does not need to be removed is best left alone. Any homeowners unsure as to the status of asbestos in their home are also welcome to contact Trident Surveying for further advice on how to manage asbestos. 

Lung cancer no longer just a ‘smokers’ disease’

Lung cancer should no longer be seen as a “smokers’ disease” because one in five new cases has nothing to do with the habit, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK has said.A drop in the number of smokers means that fewer are developing lung cancer, but the number of people who contract the disease from other causes, such as asbestos, remains steady at about 6,000 per year in the UK.It means that while smoking is still the leading cause of lung cancer, the proportion of non-smoking related cases is growing larger over time.Speaking at the launch of a major genetic study of the disease on Wednesday Dr HarpalKumar said: “It is not so long ago that we used to say more than nine in ten lung cancers were smoking-related, and now we say eight in ten.”People tend to think it is just a smokers’ disease, but it isn’t,” he added. “It is a significant problem, and one that is growing globally.”While scientists have made major improvements in diagnosis and treatment for breast and other cancers in recent years, there has been virtually no improvement in lung cancer survival rates since 1970.Along with problems like the typically late diagnosis of lung cancer, which makes it harder for researchers to obtain biopsies for studies and recruit patients to trials, the perception of the condition as a problem for smokers could be one reason why progress has been so slow, Dr Kumar said.The new £14 million study launched on Wednesday is aimed at tracking the genetic changes which trigger the growth of tumours and help them develop resistance to drugs.Genetic mutations are known to drive the development of cancer, but are also the target of drugs aimed at stopping tumours in their tracks.The project, one of the largest ever studies of lung cancer patients, will focus on how tumours continue to develop new mutations as they grow, making them genetically complex.Their continued evolution means all cells in a tumour do not share the same characteristics and are often quite different – a major problem which has hindered progress in developing new drugs for the disease.Over the course of nine years scientists will analyse thousands of tumour biopsies from 850 patients across the UK, examining the genetic differences within individual tumours and between different patients.Identifying which mutations occur first, and are therefore shared by the largest proportion of cells in a tumour, could allow doctors to select the drug with the biggest potential impact for each individual patient.Prof Charlie Swanton of Cancer Research UK’s London Research Institute and University College London, who is leading the study, said: “Success in treating lung cancer has been difficult to achieve but we’re hoping to change that.”The first step to improving cancer diagnosis and treatment is to understand more about the disease and how it changes over time.”Source – The Telegraphhttp://bit.ly/15YUf96

asbestos surveys, asbestos disease, asbestos management

HSE non compliance at £124 per hour

If you or your company are involved in construction you should know that from 18 February until 15 March, the HSE (Health and Safety Executive) will make unannounced visits to ensure duty holders are managing high-risk activity and complying to current regulations as required by Law.When attending site the HSE inspector will no doubt be asking to see if steps have been taken to ensure compliance to the current asbestos regulations. Where applicable the duty holder will be asked to produce the asbestos survey report for the site.The regulations that are currently in place that cover asbestos are the ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012)’ and also ‘Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM 2007)’.Unsafe practices on construction sites across the UK are to be targeted as part of a national initiative aimed at ill health, injury and death.To support a month-long drive to improve standards in one of Britain’s most dangerous industries, inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) will visit sites in England, Wales and Scotland.The purpose of the initiative is to remind those working in the industry that poor standards are unacceptable and could result in enforcement action.The Health and Safety Executive now operates a Fee for Intervention (FFI) cost recovery scheme, which came into effect on 1 October 2012.Under The Health and Safety (Fees) Regulations 2012, those who are found to be in breach of health and safety laws are liable for recovery of HSE’s related costs, including inspection, investigation and taking enforcement action, at a rate of £124 per hour.

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