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Asbestos warning at refurb sites

Health and Safety inspectors in North Wales are alarmed by the number of projects where asbestos has been disturbed during refurbishment work.

A warning has been issued to site owners planning refurbishment work to remind them that they have a legal responsibility to identify the location of asbestos before work starts.

They must also arrange for its removal by properly licensed companies if the work runs the risk of disturbing the asbestos.

A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) spokesman said: “In the past six months seven prohibition notices have been issued and one improvement notice. There have also been a number of additional incidents where HSE inspectors have had to investigate and they have fortunately managed to head off problems.”

Wrexham-based HSE construction inspector Debbie John said: 'Site owners need to understand the dangers that asbestos poses to the long-term health of those who are repeatedly exposed to it.

“They have a legal obligation to have a survey carried out by a competent surveyor on properties before any work starts and then provide the results of that survey to companies carrying out the work.”

Tradesmen including plumbers and electricians are at particular risk from asbestos related diseases as many buildings constructed or refurbished before the year 2000 contain asbestos including lagging on pipes and boilers.

During repair and maintenance work, asbestos fibres are likely to be inhaled as a deadly dust if they are disturbed. If asbestos-containing material is in good condition where it cannot be disturbed or damaged, it's safer to leave it where it is and to manage the risks.

Mrs John said: “HSE is running a campaign called 'Asbestos - the Hidden Killer' which highlights how the dangers of asbestos are relevant to tradesmen.

“Fortunately, in many investigated cases, work is brought to an immediate standstill as soon as asbestos is discovered, but site owners need to be aware that they are responsible for identifying this material before work starts.”