It’s something that seems to appear everywhere for our surveyors; garage ceilings, soffit boards, packings underneath window sills or even hidden inside doors. Asbestos insulating board can sometimes seem to be everywhere, its fireproofing qualities and ability to be cut to size contributed to it being used throughout the UK until it was banned in 1985.
Amongst professionals asbestos insulating board is rarely mentioned when talking about the most dangerous asbestos containing materials (ACM’s). This is reflected with the industry standard scoring when conducting a material risk assessment. Asbestos insulating board will score a two out of three, whereas the more obvious high risk products (pipework lagging, sprayed coatings etc) score a three. The level of risk for asbestos insulating board materials generally comes out as Medium Risk or Low Risk.
Why then do we always express concern to our clients over asbestos insulating board (AIB)?
Firstly, it almost always contains amosite. Amosite is part of the amphibole group, of which all were banned in 1985 in the UK. It is considered significantly more dangerous than chrysotile which remained in use until 1999. Secondly, AIB is also a highly friable product, when damaged there is great potential for it to release respirable fibres into the air. This friability is a leading factor in why the Health & Safety Executive categorise it as a licensed product. Though this doesn’t tell us why we believe it to be especially dangerous.
AIB is the most frequently discovered licensable asbestos product by our surveyors. Not only is it frequently found but it’s often found in large quantities, for example covering entire ceilings. This quantity and prevalence is compounded by the fact that it’s often unrecognisable to many civilians who mistake it as fibreboard, gypsum or plasterboard. Furthermore, it’s often found in dry and inaccessible areas, it’s very easily damaged and it was often fixed in rooms with high populations.
When someone has accidentally damaged asbestos it’s usually AIB, below are a few examples:
- Punching bag installed in to AIB ceiling in garage
- Electricians smashing through AIB ceiling in utility room to run cabling
- Projector and downlights fitted through AIB ceiling in school classroom
In each of these cases there were costly decontamination and removal procedures that were entirely preventable.
Though there are ACM’s that score higher on a risk assessment, nothing can match the quantity of AIB we find nor the frequency to which we find it in a damaged and dangerous condition.
The best way to prevent damage is to manage your asbestos properly. The starting point of managing your asbestos is to conduct a Management Survey and develop a strategy accordingly.