When it comes to maintaining a commercial property, safety is paramount. One safety concern that requires particular attention is the presence of asbestos. Used extensively in building materials throughout the 20th century, asbestos can still be found in many older commercial properties today. While undisturbed asbestos poses little risk, asbestos materials can release harmful fibers when damaged or disturbed. Inhalation of these fibers can lead to serious health problems such as lung disease and cancer. Here’s a straightforward guide to managing asbestos in your commercial property safely.
Before you can manage asbestos, you need to identify if your property contains any asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). The age of your building can provide some hints. Asbestos was widely used in construction up until the 1980s. Some common building materials that might contain asbestos include:
If you suspect the presence of ACMs in your property, it’s essential to get a professional assessment. Experts in the field, like BuildSafe Environmental, can conduct a thorough inspection and testing to confirm the presence and extent of asbestos.
If asbestos is present in your commercial property, you need a comprehensive asbestos management plan. This plan will map out your strategy for dealing with asbestos. It might include measures like regular inspections, clear labelling of ACMs, communication protocols for staff and contractors, and plans for repair or removal of ACMs if needed.
If the ACMs in your property are in good condition and aren’t likely to be disturbed, they’re best left alone. Asbestos becomes a problem when it’s damaged or disturbed and releases fibers into the air. As part of your asbestos management plan, make sure all occupants and contractors understand where ACMs are located and the importance of not disturbing them.
It’s essential for maintenance and custodial staff to understand how to work safely around ACMs. They should know how to identify asbestos materials, understand the risks associated with disturbing these materials, and know what to do if they encounter damaged or deteriorating ACMs. Regular training can ensure that your staff has the knowledge they need to avoid unintentionally disturbing asbestos and putting themselves or others at risk.
If ACMs in your building become damaged or need to be disturbed as part of renovations or maintenance work, it’s time to call in the professionals. Asbestos remediation is a highly regulated field that requires specific safety measures to protect workers and prevent asbestos fibers from contaminating the broader environment. Experienced professionals have the training and equipment to handle these tasks safely and effectively.
Your responsibility doesn’t end with a one-time inspection or staff training. Regular monitoring and inspections are essential in maintaining a safe environment. Over time, even materials in good condition can degrade or get damaged, releasing asbestos fibers into the air. Regular inspections can identify problem areas early, allowing for prompt remediation.
Documentation plays a key role in effective asbestos management. Keep comprehensive records of asbestos inspections, including locations of ACMs, their current condition, and any remediation actions taken. These records should be regularly updated and easily accessible. Documentation not only helps track the asbestos management process but can also be crucial if health issues arise in the future related to asbestos exposure.
Clear communication is an essential component of any asbestos management plan. All occupants, including employees and contractors, should be informed about the presence and location of asbestos in the building. They should also be educated on the importance of not disturbing these materials and the procedures to follow if they find damaged ACMs.
In some situations, it might be best to consider asbestos abatement – the process of removing or encapsulating asbestos materials. This process should always be handled by certified professionals. Remember, improper handling can increase the risk, causing more harm than good.
Asbestos can be a legal liability. It’s smart to consult with legal and insurance advisors to understand your responsibilities and liabilities as a property owner or manager. This can also guide you in forming a comprehensive and legally sound asbestos management plan.
Keeping your commercial property safe from the risks associated with asbestos is not an insurmountable challenge. With a proactive approach and an experienced professional by your side, you can effectively manage asbestos in your property, ensuring a safe environment for everyone. The health and safety of your building’s occupants are too important to leave to chance, and so is your peace of mind. Remember, the cost of managing asbestos now can prevent significant health and financial problems down the road. It’s an investment in health, safety, and your property’s longevity.