How do you deal with soil contaminated with asbestos?
With the recent release of HSE’s ACOP on Managing and Working with Asbestos (click here for the pdf version) I realised that it was time to discuss the implications of asbestos in soil on this blog.
Asbestos in soil poses a potentially huge health risk, especially when working in and around those soils. If you’ve heard of asbestos as a health risk then you’ll know that the inhalation of 1 fibre can be fatal, there is also very little guidance for the handling and haulage of soils contaminated with asbestos which could mean that high risk works are being carried out unknowingly. That is however set to change once CL:AIRE’s Joint Industry Working Group produces their report which is due early 2014.
Asbestos soil contamination comes in 2 forms, Bound asbestos, and Fibrous asbestos. Bound asbestos is typically low risk as the fibres are part of a larger block and therefore can’t be inhaled, these materials are also know as Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) and include asbestos roofing boards and asbestos cement. Fibrous asbestos is the high risk form, it does what is says on the tin, loose fibres are lying around and if disturbed could be inhaled. Although there is often a sense of relief when only ACMs are recorded on site, I would be genuinely surprised if weathering and damage to ACMs isn’t producing fibrous asbestos in small amounts across the site, so caution is encouraged.
Management of Asbestos Contaminated Soils
- The best way to manage asbestos contaminated soil is to leave it undisturbed.
- If you have to move it, then keep the soil damp so that any fibres do not become airbourne, ensure site workers are wearing appropriate PPE, and have a decontamination unit for all staff working in the area. Dust and fibre monitoring should also be carried out.
- Handpicking of ACMs from soil is a good solution to significantly minimise waste volumes.
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