Risks from fires to buildings containing asbestos

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Building on fire containing asbestos

Risks from fires to buildings containing asbestos

When buildings containing asbestos catch fire then the risk of the asbestos becoming airborne are significantly increased due to damage and burning off other mixed materials within the products.

The asbestos can cause serious health risks to anyone nearby.  Also the asbestos can potentially contaminate surrounding land or buildings.

This airborne asbestos poses severe health hazards to individuals in proximity to the fire. Additionally, there is a risk of asbestos contamination spreading to the surrounding land and buildings. Picture the smoke generated by fires; now, imagine these plumes containing asbestos fibers. These fibers settle on nearby structures, residential properties, or gardens, creating an additional risk of exposure.

Reflecting on the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, we witnessed the collapse of the twin towers during a terrorist attack. While not a fire, a similar reaction occurred with dust clouds containing 2,000 tonnes of asbestos fibers, exposing 410,000 people, as noted by experts.

The buildings

Older buildings built before 1999 (The year asbestos was banned in the uk) are more likely to contain asbestos.  These can be any type of building including residential, commercial and industrial.

Also due to the age of the property the fire proofing is likely not to be substantial or up to todays contemporary standards.

What are the health risks from the fire?

If you have been in the proximity of a fire then the greater chance you will have to inhale asbestos fibres and exposing yourself.

Damaged asbestos from fire

Exposure to asbestos can lead to asbestos related diseases; these include asbestosis, lung cancer, plural plaques and mesothelioma.

Fires also pose risks to firefighting personnel tasked with suppressing the blaze and managing associated dangers.

How to manage the threat of fires in your buildings

To address these risks, conducting a thorough fire risk assessment is crucial, and maintaining up-to-date fire safety equipment is the responsibility of the duty-holder.

In the UK, non-domestic properties and communal areas of rented properties require a fire risk assessment.

If you are the duty-holder and your building is found to contain asbestos through your survey, the fire brigade are always keen on knowing this information so they can put extra precautions in place.

For example if you have a large factory with lots of asbestos, the fire brigade may bring their own decontamination unit from knowing this information in the first instance.

Asbestos survey reports play a vital role in assisting the fire service when assessing sites, controlling fires, and implementing safety measures.


Further Reading

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