Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Asbestos Deterioration in Cement Roof Sheets - Whats the Risk?

Asbestos became increasingly popular among manufacturers and tradesman in the 19th century, due to a number of benefits some of which being lightweight, sound absorbent, fire, electrical and chemical damage resistant, not only that but it was more affordable that some other materials out at the time. Asbestos fibers were often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats.

It was the popular and affordable material to use as garage roofing. Using this material posed heath risks that at the time nobody seemed to know or worry about but as the dangers of the asbestos fibers has come to light over the years it's no wonder that we can't wait to get rid of the stuff or find a solution to fix the problem.

Asbestos is safe enough if undamaged. If cement roof sheets (for example) have been damaged in anyway it is then that we could have a problem on our hands. Dry asbestos fibers in the thin cement roof sheets are hardly visible, like dust that can be moved around by the smallest gust of wind. A cracked roof sheet will expose the fibers and potentially cause health risks to people around the building. Deterioration of cement roof sheets can be caused from a number of variable factors. General weathering or excessive moss growth can cause the cement roof sheets to become very brittle, natural deterioration of the panels can lead to cracked skylights etc. This can lead to leaks in the roof (not overly good if your trying to run a business with lots of expensive machinery inside). Many property owners or businessmen/women will seek to get this problem solved, looking at roofing companies around their area. It may be that the owner of the property doesn't know there is asbestos used for their roof so wouldn't automatically look for specialist companies. This can also be a health risk to the roofing company that you have acquired to repair your roof.

Although asbestos used in cement roofing sheets is graded as 'white asbestos' presumed to be the lowest risk to human health, it is still related to many asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma a disease linked with a type of cancer. and if not managed in a controlled environment with strict attention to Health and Safety guidelines the consequences could be fatal. Employers should ensure that their staff wear protective clothing and equipment. It is important for each and every member of staff to understand the risks of the material. You do not need a licence as a roofer to remove or repair asbestos cement roof sheets which only adds to the misuse and misinformed staff in companies trying to reach a 'niece' market resulting in badly managed projects posing a risk to the workers and the clients health. 

If you are thinking about having the corrugated cement roof sheets repaired, cleaned or replaced make sure you ask the questions to the company and have the conversation written down in an email or note form. Ask them what the process involved is. Ask whether they have protective clothing, will you and your business need to be out of the building for the works to be carried out (this really depending on the current roof condition). Ask to meet the person who will be managing the project (face to face contact will give you an idea of how professional the company actually are). Ask to see training awareness documents. Has the company got accreditations'  (not every company will hold construction accreditations' and this doesn't mean they are not a good company but it does help to put the clients mind at ease, so it's always good to have). Ask to see previous client testimonies. How did they find the completed works? 

All these questions may seem a bit much but in making sure you have the right company for the job and ensuring that your health and your staffs health is a priority. If your chosen company is highly professional and and compliant in their own procedures they should have no problem in answering any concerns you have about asbestos. You should however worry if the company you have chosen to complete your project does not want to answer any of the suggested questions listed above, alarm bells at this stage should be ringing. 

In conclusion asbestos can be a tricky and murky area in the world of roofing or any other construction to potential clients, the one solid piece of advice i could give is 'Do Your Homework'. As long as you have covered the basic understanding of what could be involved you should have not worries or fears about the possible risks that are involved when dealing with asbestos cement roof sheets.

SIAD Industrial Roofing and Asbestos Roofing

Sarah Woodward
Marketing Assistant
SIAD Industrial Roofing
01865 712627