Asbestos is the name for a group of natural occurring mineral fibres which are strong and both heat and chemically resistant. Due to these properties, asbestos was commonly used in the past as insulation and fire proofing. It was also used as a component in other building materials. There are three main types of asbestos found in Ireland – chrysotile (white asbestos), amosite (brown asbestos) and crocidolite (blue asbestos).
The risk associated with exposure to asbestos relates to the possibility that the fibres within the asbestos containing material (ACM) can become released into the air and are then inhaled. Breathing in air containing asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos-related diseases (mainly cancers of the chest and lungs). These diseases will not occur immediately and can take from 15 – 60 years to develop. Note that as long as asbestos is in good condition and there is no disturbance or damage to the ACM, it will not pose a risk to health as fibres will not be released.
It is now prohibited to use, re-use, sell or supply asbestos or asbestos containing materials or products. However products or materials containing asbestos, which were already installed or in service prior to the prohibition, may remain in place until they are disposed of or reach the end of their service life. As a result, there is still potential for exposure to asbestos in a variety of workplaces due to the large quantities of asbestos and ACM's which were used in buildings in the past.
The Health and Safety Authority has published comprehensive guidance on asbestos which includes the following:
- Information on types of asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs) in buildings.
- Health effects of asbestos and associated risks to different types of workers.
- Risk assessment of ACMs and use of various risk assessment algorithms.
- Various legislation applicable to asbestos in Ireland.
- Managing ACMs in workplaces and developing an Asbestos Management Plan (AMP)
- Protocol for Management Asbestos Surveys (MAS) and a Pre-refubishment/demolition survey (RDAS).
- Bulk sampling and analysis.
- Training, instruction and information requirements.
- Personal Protective Equipment for working with asbestos and ACMs.
- Protocols for lower risk work with asbestos and ACMs and for higher risk work with asbestos and ACMs.
- Contents of Plans of Work (method statements) for lower and higher risk asbestos work.
- Role of the Independent Analyst, Four stage Clearance procedure and Certificates of Reoccupation .
- Health surveillance and exposure registers.
- Notification requirements.
- Advice for management and disposal of asbestos and ACMs.
You can download a PDF copy of the asbestos guidelines here.