How Can Electricians Avoid Asbestos

As an electrician I work in a wide variety of settings cellars, lofts, homes, businesses and industrial environments. I am trained to work safely around electricity in all kinds of situations but there is little training about how to deal with asbestos. So i thought i would try and answer the question how can electricians avoid asbestos.

Asbestos is not considered dangerous if it undisturbed. The danger occurs when Asbestos is broken or deteriorated it releases tiny fibres / particles into the air. These fibres are breathed by people and can become trapped in the lungs. Over time these fibres can build up and become a serious health issue. Causing:

  • Inflammation of the lungs making it hard to breathe.
  • Mesothelioma which is a rare cancer affecting the lining of the lungs and the chest.
  •  Lung cancer
  • Other problems including Pleural Plaques & Effusions.

One of the frightening aspects of asbestos is the length of time it can take from being exposed to asbestos before you develop any symptoms. It can be anywhere from 15 – 50 years after being exposed that the signs of asbestos poisoning can show. For more information about the dangers and treatments of Asbestos poisoning click here or consult your GP.

Safety Procedures When Dealing With Asbestos

Before starting work you should check if there is any Asbestos present (I appreciate this is often easier said than done). On commercial properties their should be a plan / register which you can look at. If there isn’t a register or plan then assume that any material you need to disturb contains asbestos and take the appropriate precautions.

In terms of safety equipment heres what we use (but you can always make improvements):

  • Overalls
  • Single use disposable gloves
  • Disposable over shoes over work boots
  • Respiratory protective equipment with a factor of 20 or more

If you want more information here is a Health and Safety Executive fact sheet that you can look at.

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Why should electricians worry about Asbestos

To help emphasise the point I’ve pulled some statistics form the Asbestos Justice website.

  • 1.3 million tradesmen are at risk from dangers of asbestos
  • 1 in 50 electricians born in the 1940’s and have worked in the industry for 10 years are most at risk of developing an asbestos disease
  • 670 electricians died between 2002-2006 as a result of an asbestos disease
  • Asbestos exposure kills 6 electricians every week
  • Products that contain asbestos

    This isn’t a definitive list of all products that contain asbestos but. Many products used by electricians before 1999 contained asbestos so this should help you identify which products you need to be aware of.

    • Thermal paper
    • Electrical cloth
    • Electric wiring insulation
    • Cement siding
    • Textured paints
    • Decorative plaster
    • Electrical panel and partitions
    • Electrical ducts
    • Cement wallboards & cement siding

    Asbestos in the home

    Here is some more information about where asbestos is commonly found int he home:

    • As packing between floors and in partition walls
    • Sprayed (‘limpet’) asbestos on structural beams and girders
    • Lagging on pipework, boilers, calorifiers, heat exchangers
    • Asbestos insulating board — ceiling tiles, partition walls, service duct covers, fire breaks, heater cupboards, door panels, lift shaft lining, fire surrounds, soffits etc
    • Asbestos cement products – roof and wall cladding, bath panels, boiler and incinerator flues, fire surrounds, gutters, rainwater pipes, and water tanks
    • Sealants on pipe joints, gaskets;
    • Fuse boxes (e.g. flash pads)
    • Electrical switchgear
    • Boards around radiators and windows

    Thanks for reading How Electricians Can Avoid Asbestos. If you’ve got any questions get in touch and we’re happy to give free advice or if you’re concerned about asbestos in your home call your local building control and they will give you advice on how to investigate and have it removed.

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