Although asbestos is widely considered to be a thing of the past, it has become increasingly clear of late that asbestos management should be at the forefront of your mind as a commercial property owner. The latest crisis at Heanor Memorial Hospital only reaffirms the knowledge that asbestos can be lethal and, with widespread asbestos still being discovered in public and commercial buildings, isn’t now the perfect time to get your commercial property surveyed to ensure you’re not harbouring this silent killer?
The Story of Heanor Memorial Hospital
Last week saw the news that talks had reached a ‘crisis stage’ in Heanor Memorial Hospital, with widespread asbestos discovered in the building. Members of the public have been invited to the pivotal talks that will be held from 7.30pm to 9.00pm on Thursday the 30th January.
Despite the best efforts of all involved, it appears nigh on certain that the hospital that has served the healthcare needs of the town since as early as 1925 will close. It is thought that the meeting with the public at the end of the month will be used to forward alternative ideas for the 525,000 patients in and around the area.
The asbestos was found in the boiler room last September and the facility has been closed since. But what is asbestos, and why has the hospital been forced to close?
The Health Risks Associated With Asbestos
Asbestos, generally used as a fire retardant in thermal insulation products, was initially discovered in the hospital when engineers entered the boiler room to upgrade the hospital’s wiring and heating system, forcing the hospital to close its door immediately.
Asbestos is one of the great killers and is directly responsible for around 4,500 deaths every year. Asbestos fibres can cause four diseases, these are:
- Mesothelioma (which is always fatal)
- Lung cancer (almost always fatal)
- Asbestosis (not always fatal, but it can be very debilitating)
- Diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal)
Asbestos fibres are in the atmosphere, but are harmless in a low concentration. When asbestos is disturbed, however, like in Heanor Memorial Hospital, the concentration increases hugely and simply breathing in these invisible fibres can lead to an asbestos-related disease.
How Can Your Protect Yourself from This Silent Killer?
To ensure that your commercial or public property is asbestos free, you need to hire a trade professional to carry out an asbestos survey. If you have asbestos, management surveys are available to your business, and you can even have your own online asbestos management system. As an employer, it is essential that you comply with the latest guidance offered by the Health and Safety Executive. To know more about your legal obligations as an employer, consult this guide.
To conclude, as an employer, knowing the facts about asbestos is absolutely essential. With large scale public institutions such as hospitals succumbing to the perils of this silent killer it is essential that you know you’re obligations as a property owner and boss. If you’re in any doubt, get the experts in for a survey.