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Asbestos Awareness Courses
So I have just had the life frightened out of me on this course and was just curious as to how up to speed people were with dealing with asbestos in archaeological contexts. I guess this mainly applies to post-med/industrial sites but is asbestos awareness a standard across archaeological companies? Building Surveys seem pretty obvious - some sort of refurb/demolition survey should have been done beforehand which identifies obvious bits. But archaeologically, things get a little muddy (in more ways than one). In soils it can be hard to identify if it has already degraded, particularly the brown and blue stuff and past experience has shown that trial pits won't neccessarily pick it up if its concentrated in particular areas.

Just thinking of the all the new people coming into the commercial world thick and fast who may even be of a generation where it was no longer used in buildings

Or am I just being paranoid, perhaps the risk is the same as tetanus or Weils disease?

Thanks in advance Smile
I don't think you're being paranoid, it's something archaeologists need to be aware of. There are really good guidelines available for how to deal with asbestos, though, and if they're followed the risk is minimal.
Exposure to asbestos is something that has long worried me having been on building/demolition sites long before the current legislation. What's needed in archaeology is some guidance as to when and where you might encounter it which might be different from the standard Government advice.The Victorians loved the stuff and it crops up in unusual places. Railways for one, around the hot water pipes in the heating systems for stately homes another. As an archaeologists most of my encounters have been the result of old disposal/tipping on the sites of demolished buildings. I shudder when I think of the hours I spent stripping the artex off the walls in my own home in the early 1990s:0
The "standard Government advice" on the website linked above covers all that. The HSE takes asbestos very seriously. I know because I've written software to manage asbestos surveys and it had a very tight spec. :p

For example, here is the guide on asbestos in fly-tipped waste (equally applicable to when it's encountered on archaeological sites):
Have never fieldwalked anywhere (and that's a lot of fields in a lot of counties) where there wasn't, at a minimum, some roofing asbestos lying about, stuff's everywhere. And I once walked onto a site (another unit's) where there was blue asbestos just lying about - no one had realised what it was....
I cant say that I have ever tried to do anything about it all to my shame. With the roofing material I pretend that because I cant be certain that it does have any asbestos in it that it might not be. The other thing I hate is being on sites where they have a demolition machine crunching away at all manner of building materials particularly "Artex", they then take the rubbish and use it as ballast all-over the place. I basically try to stay upwind but frankly I am kidding myself. Theres a bloke up my street who's dying of it who used to be a scaffolder. He has been sitting in a mobility scooter for the last two years sucking on oxygen not expecting to see the year out. He says that he thinks he got before it got banned which does not help the cause.

The main problem is thinking that you will get charged for disposal if you highlight it
.....nature was dead and the past does not exist
Marc Berger Wrote:The main problem is thinking that you will get charged for disposal if you highlight it

certainly a few old anecdotes along those lines...But, in recent (say last 10 years) years I have not come across any Demo/Construction or Related Trades, especially the Management,who do not take asbestos very seriously...the costs of disposal are never really a problem anymore because most Contractors (at least at level of Site Managers) are very keen not to get caught out in any complaints or have made complaints put to them by the HSE
Also costs of urban bulk removal and disposal can be staggeringly massive anyway - the extra costs for 'doing by the book' in regard of asbestos finds are not so significant to those kinds of budgets.
(god knows what happens at the landfill stage though - that appears a tight racket:/ )

Because of this nearly all sub-contractors (particularly the machine drivers) will now follow that same line > > it can a bit over the top at times, but i think there has been in sea change in the industry to doing these things 'by the book', even on suspicion rather than known asbestos risk.

In general issues have arisen because individual contractors have not been bothered to 'do it by the book', rather than directly the cost > the costs are readily passed on as basic overheads in the industry. Archaeologists however can be their own worst enemies, though ignorance of the material (as pointed out), maybe laziness at times, but often due to sheer keenness to 'get digging'.

Because of this, there is one situation that is particularly of concern > a few times now i have seen contracts where the archaeologists have contracted for the whole 'topsoil stripping - clearance' job, rather than simply supervising/monitoring other sub-contractors hired by the client.

The real danger with this is that (potentially) the arch units are very badly set up to absorb the extra costs of eg asbestos removal, with direct impacts on teh rest of budget available for actual archaeological fieldwork :/
Alternatively (and i am thinking of some smaller units in particular here) they pretty much try to ignore the problems like asbestos, or deal with them in what they consider 'sensible' ways > sometimes that is fine, but it is not 'doing it by the book'
as the rest of construction trade are now tending to.
afraid I might be in the smaller unit standing around on a watching brief....hired by the landowner who pretty convinced that I am over charging and that I work for the council. Not sure that the builders would be that thankful that it was pointed out that artex that might contain asbestos might be being nicely crushed up and distributed through several hundreds of tons of debris. Have you ever stopped a job because you believe asbestos have been blown across the site. I would like to hear of some success stories
.....nature was dead and the past does not exist
No - not specifically > but as I say when dealing with larger construction contracts (eg Persimmons, Skanska, LaingO'Rouke, Highways Agency, Railways) i have found that they are all very keen to 'do it by the book'
>they probably would not allow any significant dust to blow across sites they had direct control over in the first place.
+...they spend time selectively removing all potential asbestos materials from buildings before demolishing them, and probably would have already tested materials or assessed them, before being crushed...and if they were clearly told of a suspicion, they would certainly act. >>> they face significant fines/potential loss of contracts for non-compliance.

as you say, things are different with private and small scale contracts > they may be some real problems there, but it is universally true that regulations are much harder to enforce (and indeed follow) for small scale developers/contractors.

There are many downsides to big corporate business :/ > but i honestly believe the bigger Construction companies have made real efforts and substantially cleaned up their act in this regard (+ general staff welfare).
>so don't be afraid to tell The Big Scary Developer of any suspicions > sadly, i don't know what the solution is for very small scale works/contractors...
Does the book say that any demolition rubble should be presumed to be riddled with asbestos and would be best used encased in concrete and then used to reclaim land from the north sea? Apparently they imported over 5 million tons of the stuff in the 70s and you have to watch out for the less than 3 micron stuff. Theres an interesting bit on what Scotland thinks of englands attempt to limit the damage to industry from compensation and the HSC have pretty much got control over the statistics,

and by the end of 2015 you get more and more unlucky to get it
.....nature was dead and the past does not exist

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