Despites strict rules and guidelines of The Health and Safety Executive in the UK  ,it is disheartening to find that people are still exposed to asbestos in their lines of work.

The long term effects show up long after one may have retired and no longer enjoys the perks of in-employment benefits and they suffer from the effects of exposure to asbestos with debilitating and terminal diseases such as cancer,

How much progress has been made in protecting people from exposure to asbestos?

Why are there still tenders advertised for removal of asbestos by hired staff?

Would automation and AI be useful tools in projects where asbestos is involved?

It is high time that we eradicate contact with asbestos by persons during all stages of engineering projects .

  • In the early 1980's I had been working for my dad as a general builder and carpenter, then due to the recession and wanting to move to Worcester to buy a house and get married,  so started subcontracting to a middle sized building company in Worcester. 

    Being a fit and healthy guy in my twenties I was given the job of reroofing Worcester Racecourse Stables and generally refurbishing them with occasional help from others. 

    I personally removed and handled every asbestos roofing sheet that came off the stables, but I did refuse to wire brush the asbestos sheets clean on the tea hut, then paint them with bituminous paint, two bricklayers who needed a days work came and did that without cat boards, just walking about on the asbestos sheets and letting the dust blow across the racecourse and the dog walkers. 

    At that time the builders also built seven blocks of housing association flats here in Worcester and clad the pipe boxes in the bathrooms with asbestos boards, roll onto the late 2010's and I was doing electrical and other maintenance as well as EICRs for the HA contractor whilst another contractor had guys in white suits with all the gear removing the asbestos from the bathrooms.

    But then the pipe boxes were recovered with MDF.

    During my working life I have installed and removed asbestos cement products, thougn I refused to walk on it and wire brush it to clean it before painting it.

    I have also seen it removed where it was installed as fire protection in flats to be replaced with MDF by experts being supervised by other experts. 

    I treat asbestos products with due respect and work cautiously around them, but I don't break out in a cold sweat and start to panic and if it has been removed by others I ensure replacement products perform in a similar way when it was installed as fire protection. 

    Removing asbestos from some buildings has increased fire risks with it being replaced with unsuitable materials. 

    I have personally known people who have died from breathing in asbestos dust,  one of whom was never in the building trades and never worked with it, I drove him and his wife to Weston-super-Mare for a day out then pushed him and his oxygen tank around in a wheelchair shortly before he died. I also knew two guys who died falling through asbestos sheets on roofs, hence I treat it with respect in all ways and really don't underestimate the risks it presents. 

  • In 1969 while working in a chemical works I was working on top of a steel boiler vessel we had just installed and my foreman nodded toward two laggers working on the steam pipes and said " they will never see 40".  I asked him what he meant and he replied that the asbestos in the lagging would kill them by the time they were 40. 

    I always wondered why it was another 10 years before it was banned. I also wonder how much I have been exposed to over the years so far without any adverse effects.