“Derwent has Asbestos, Derwent has Asbestos, nah nah nah, nah nah nah..”. By now it is pretty clear that Derwent college does actually have asbestos. I’m afraid there’s no denying that one! However, the real issue at hand is how the university can go about destroying the asbestos-ridden buildings. As I’m sure many of you will have seen, Derwent blocks remain fully intact but without any students living there. What is the solution?
It turns out that asbestos is a lot more common than you may think and that actually it is pretty safe if left alone. The main risks occur when you start disturbing the asbestos. If disturbed, likely during building work, you become exposed to the asbestos fibres which can cause significant health damage. According to HSE (the health and safety executive), asbestos kills more than 5000 workers a year. Often the problems are long-term and mainly target the lungs. Asbestos fibres are so strong that the body is unable to break them down.
Asbestos has been banned in the UK for the past 25 years and yet still many buildings are facing the problem of having it. It is usually found in thermal insulation, roofing, cladding, water pipes, floors, ceilings and other crucial elements of buildings. The structural reliance on these asbestos-ridden materials makes it hard to remove them without the whole building collapsing.
Legally you must remove any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) from buildings before the building can be demolished. In order to do this, you must have an Asbestos Survey and be able to safely identify all areas of Asbestos within the building. Within the survey, samples will likely be taken and tested in a lab.
Asbestos is such an issue that it can only be removed by licenced professionals. Contractors are required to have refresher courses on Asbestos removal every year. One way asbestos is removed is through encapsulation. This is where professionals cover materials in sealant to avoid the fibres getting out and becoming airborne. Sometimes this is sufficient enough to beat the problem.
If materials need to be fully removed, licensed contractors must make sure they’re wearing full PPE before they are exposed to the fibres. This means a full PPE suit, gloves, mask and footwear. Sections of asbestos must be removed in small sections. After removal, all areas must be cleaned with damp rags and all asbestos waste taken to a recognised tip. As well as this contractors must ensure all asbestos has been removed. Sometimes this involves taking more samples.
It is only after all these steps (once the building is officially deemed asbestos-free!) that it can be demolished! It looks like Derwent will remain intact then until this long process is carried out!