16 October 2020

Managing the risk from asbestos.

Vector image of man approaching house and showing fumes having affect on his lungs

Some churches and church halls may contain asbestos, particularly if they were built, refurbished, altered or extended during the twentieth century. However, this would be before the year 2000, when it was made illegal to use it in construction or refurbishment.

Asbestos in churches

In churches, asbestos is typically found in heating systems, flooring or ceiling tiles, pipe organs, organ blower boxes, roofing materials and so on. More often than not, it may have been painted over or mixed with another material.

Exposure usually occurs when asbestos is disturbed, damaged or in poor condition. Therefore, those people who are most at risk are those carrying out maintenance and repair jobs.

Any work on or removal of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) should be left to specialists.

Managing the risk

Those responsible for the maintenance or repair of non-domestic premises (including a church) have a legal duty to manage the risk from any asbestos that might be present. This is under the Control of Asbestos Regulations. Generally, these require duty-holders to:

  • find out if asbestos is present
  • assess the risk of anyone being exposed to fibres
  • prepare a plan which details how risks from ACMs are managed
  • put the plan into action and review it periodically
  • make and maintain suitable records
  • provide information on the location and condition of the materials to anyone who may work on or disturb asbestos

Places where you may find asbestos in churches

If you are unsure whether ACMs are present at your church, you could check building plans, speak to your architect/surveyor or ask a specialist to carry out an inspection of the premises for you.

Asbestos could be present in:

  • Loose asbestos - used as loft insulation
  • Sprayed asbestos for fire protection - in ducts and on structural steel work, fire breaks in ceiling voids etc. 
  • Lagging - sometimes used as thermal insulation for pipes and boilers
  • Asbestos Insulating Board - used for fire protection, as thermal insulation or as wall partitions and in ducts, soffits, ceiling and wall panels
  • Asbestos cement products (including flat or corrugated sheets) - used as roofing and wall cladding, gutters, rainwater pipes, water tanks etc.
  • Certain textured coatings - potentially used in decorative plasters and paints
  • Bitumen or vinyl materials - used as roofing felt, floor and ceiling tiles etc.
This is by no means a complete list and asbestos may be present in many other forms.
To learn more about asbestos management please download our asbestos guide for churches
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