During the 20th century, asbestos was seen as a miracle material, used across the construction industry for various projects.
Prior to it being deemed a serious health hazard due to the non-degradable nature of its fibres, asbestos was the go-to choice for the construction of industrial roofs thanks to its durability and fire-proof qualities.
Though it has been twenty years since the use of asbestos in construction was completely banned in the UK, asbestos roofs remain a common feature on many older roofs.
What Is the Danger?
Asbestos may have a frightening reputation now the full extent of its harmful nature is known, but official guidance states that - unless damaged - the safest course of action is to leave it alone.
Removal disturbs the dangerous fibres and can cause a host of health issues should they be inhaled. These fibres do not degrade and remain in the body for life, wreaking havoc on the respiratory system and other areas.
Asbestos itself cannot be recycled, making disposal of an entire roof’s worth of material an expensive and complicated undertaking.
However, when asbestos becomes damaged, it can pose a serious health risk, and must be dealt with as soon as possible. Any damage, such as from improper roof access, will cause a release of fibres. This damage should be immediately repaired with roof coverings or specially designed sealant.
Roof leaks also pose a risk. Though asbestos is water resistant, the fibres will be carried into the building below by the water and, once dry, can become suspended in the air and inhaled.
Repairing Asbestos Safely
The inherent danger of asbestos roofs means any work is a risky undertaking. As drilling or penetrating the material in any way is highly dangerous, standard edge and fall protection solutions will generally not be suitable.
Lifeline systems, for example, need to be drilled into the roof surface to ensure they can withstand the force of a fall by the user.
Old asbestos panels are also fragile, and there is a significant risk of falling through and seriously damaging the roof, meaning a roof walkway that spreads the weight of the user is a must. However, roof walkways are generally fitted by penetrating the roof, meaning they are a danger to install.
The longer damaged or leaking asbestos panels are ignored, the greater the risk of contamination, so these issues need to be repaired fast.
The best solution is a safe access system which does not require fixing, such as our Roof Walk temporary walkway. The lightweight aluminium Roof Walk system allows access from eaves to ridge on fragile asbestos roofs, whilst spreading the load on support battens.
Roof Walk is entirely safe to use on asbestos roofs and does not damage or disturb the fibres. It is entirely portable and the open mesh walkway allows for full visibility, meaning you can easily carry out resealing or replacement work on the affected panels without restriction.
Each system is designed to fit individual roof sizes and configurations, and can be installed to run vertically up, down, or horizontally across the roof. Each 4m section can be linked with another to provide a full length walkway, allowing for complete roof coverage.
Asbestos roofs are a ticking time bomb, and once they are damaged they can become a serious hazard, and a costly, time-consuming and complicated challenge to repair.
By investing in a Roof Walk, you can be safe in the knowledge you are prepared should the worst occur.
For more information about Roof Walk, or any of our safe access solutions for fragile or asbestos roofs, call us on 01767 691812 or use our online contact form.