Precautions to Take during Planned Minor Asbestos Repairs
You can limit the extent of exposure in the event that asbestos-containing materials (ACM) are disturbed in your commercial building by carrying out emergency repairs to the damaged material. This article discusses some precautions that you can include in your asbestos management plan so that repair personnel do not need to disturb the ACM further.
Pick Surface Preparation Methods Carefully
Minor cracks (such as hairline cracks) in asbestos sheets can be painted over in order to prevent asbestos fibres from becoming airborne. Care must be taken when preparing the surface of those sheets before paint can be applied. Abrasive tools such as sanders and disc cutters should be avoided because they can free asbestos particles from the sheets. It is also hard to capture the contaminated dust when such abrasive methods are used to clean asbestos-contaminated surfaces. Instead, plan to use a soft-bristled brush to remove any surface impurities before painting is done. This will allow you to collect the debris for safe disposal.
Assess the Condition of the Asbestos
Temporary repair methods (such as painting asbestos surfaces) can only achieve desired results if the ACM has not deteriorated. For example, the asbestos sheet should be free from other surface defects except the defect that you wish to repair. If the condition of the asbestos is poor (for example, the sheet has crumbled at several points), consider abatement or replacement instead of using a temporary repair method.
Choose Appropriate Patching Techniques
Consider the asbestos patching techniques that you would like to use carefully. Avoid using a patching technique (such as driving metal nails into the asbestos sheet) that will disturb or damage the ACM. This is because such a technique will create additional points from which asbestos fibres can potentially escape into the atmosphere at a later stage. Make plans to use adhesives to apply the patch onto the asbestos sheet. This method will reduce the likelihood of additional damage to the ACM.
Each temporary repair method that you consider has its limitations (paint can chip or peel, for example). Thus, your asbestos management plan should have a provision for ongoing inspection of the repaired surfaces so that any anomalies can be detected early. You should also work with the authorities in your area so that you use repair techniques that are allowed in that locality. Discuss your asbestos management plan with all concerned employees so that everyone knows what to do when asbestos materials are damaged on the property.