See HERE for the Employers’ duties
Just before Germany was re-unified the East German parliament building was closed to further use. The reason was not the redundancy of the parliament, it was the level of asbestos used in the construction of the building and it’s then condition. There are many buildings which share this feature with the parliament building, but they are not closed down.
The reason is the overwhelming number of uses asbestos was put to and the ubiquitousness of the substance. Asbestos is a mineral and is mined from rock. It has a high tensile strength and is impervious to fire and heat. It is an excellent insulation material, its most widespread use. However, it also found use in the motor industry as a constituent of brake linings. Friction causes the linings to wear and reduces them to dust particles. When they are to be replaced the mechanic may naturally blow the dust away from the brake drum. That act may have fatal affects for him at a considerably later date.
Asbestos is a cause of asbestosis and also cancer of the lungs. The latter may not show symptoms for as long as 20 years after the last exposure.
Despite its carcinogenic quality asbestos is not a prohibited substance and is not subject to general control. Prior to the Repeal of the Saety in Industry Acts 1955-1980 by the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, premises regulated under the Factories Act 1955 were affected by Section 59 of that Act and the Factories (Asbestos Processes) Regulations 1975. The Department of Labour estimated that the Safety in Industry Acts at best covered 20% of the workforce. The 1975 Regulations only covered “processes” and thus the decay of asbestos in a factory was arguably not covered in legislation save the European Community directives for the protection of workers’ health, and The Health and Safety at Work Act 1989 (now repealed).
Section 59 of the Factories Act 1955 (now repealed) prohibited eating or drinking in a workroom where, inter alia, asbestos was produced and also prohibited the taking of rest periods in such places. Only the provisions of the common law and the European Community directives stood to protect the worker in a factory, the same protection of which any other worker might avail. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has stated that there is no safe level of exposure. It also does not distinguish between the various forms of asbestos on the grounds that they all cause cancer. Distinction has been made between crocidolite (“blue asbestos”) and crysotile (“white asbestos”) Both of these forms of asbestos cause cancer. All forms of asbestos cause cancer.
In 1969, in Britain, the Asbestos Regulations 1969 were introduced. They closely resembled the later Irish Regulations. By 1985 The British Government had changed it’s mind and banned importation or supply of crocidolite and amosite(“brown asbestos”) or products containing those forms of asbestos. In addition they prohibited the spraying of asbestos of any type or the use of asbestos of any type as insulation.
In 1987, according to Dublin County Council, at least 120 tonnes of asbestos waste was being stored at various places around Dublin. It was kept in containers at sites including the Dublin docks and an industrial estate in Clondalkin. Milltown was another location and the asbestos there had been stripped on the site. According to one of the companies which owned most of the asbestos, it was stored on the sites from which it had been stripped, where possible. The storage of the asbestos became necessary when Britain declined to allow importation of asbestos waste. A disposal facility was later found in France.
The question now, for the protection of workers and others, is whether to disturb the asbestos or to retain it in its current location. This will require a survey, followed by provision for any necessary containment of the asbestos. This might be achieved by coating the asbestos with varnish or enclosing it behind partitions. Care must be taken to avoid damaging it during these operations.
In Britain the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 set out the reqirements to protect persons from damage by asbestos.
In the regulations, “the control limit” means a concentration of asbestos in the atmosphere when measured in accordance with the 1997 WHO recommended method, or by a method giving equivalent results to that method approved by the Health and Safety Commission, of 0.1 fibres per cubic centimetre of air averaged over a continuous period of 4 hours;. This is not a safe limit. This is a measurement of levels of dust in excess of which no person is to be exposed under any circumstances. This refers to the workers and any persons in the vicinity of the site of the asbestos removal.