News : Asbestos Surveys

Asbestos and retail – not just a cosmetic problem

January 4, 2018

An American mum made the unpleasant discovery that a make-up kit sold by chain retailer Claire’s, belonging to her six-year-old daughter, had asbestos in it.

The 30-year-old mother, who’s from Rhode Island and works for a law firm herself, told journalists she felt she had to research further after she found her daughter’s glitter make-up kit said that the product was made in China, but offered no further details about what ingredients it contained.

Kristi Warner duly sent the kit to a private lab to be tested. The results revealed that the kit contained tremolite asbestos, which has been linked to cancer.

She sent a further 17 products from the Chicago-based retailer, whose jewellery, cosmetics and accessories products are overwhelmingly aimed at young women and girls, for testing – and says the results all came back positive.

The mum also explained that she didn’t know what to reply when her daughter Mackenzie asked her what was happening.

“I physically sank,” she told reporters after taking the story to her local radio station, WJAR-TV. “I ended up sitting on the ground, trying to understand how something like that could end up in our home.”

Mackenzie asked her if she was going to die, to which, Warner says, “There’s no right answer because I don’t want to lie to her. In the work that we do, we’ve come across contaminated cosmetics, but you just assume that a children’s product is safe.”

Negative publicity following asbestos story

The story was certainly a PR headache for the 57-year-old retail chain, which has nearly 3,500 stores including more than 1,100 in Europe, and branches across the UK.

And it sparked outrage on social media, with Twitter users making comments such as “Do you even have a quality inspection?” and “A company your size has the money and resources to perform proper quality control inspections. Sourcing products from other countries without testing and due diligence is at best, lazy, dangerous, and definitely negligent.”

One wrote simply “I hope you go out of business for putting millions of children in grave danger.”

Response from Claire’s: product recall

In response, the retailer released a link to a page with a list of the products it had decided to recall. (About 10 of them.)

It also gave this statement to a national newspaper:

“The initial results of testing by an independent certified laboratory show that the cosmetics tested to date are asbestos-free. Additional testing is underway. We have also confirmed that the talcum ingredient supply is from a certified asbestos-free European vendor.

“We will honour returns for any customers remaining uncomfortable.”

A spokesman added: “The safety of our customers is paramount, and we are passionate about the safety and integrity of our products.”

Asbestos problems in store elsewhere

Claire’s is not the only retailer to have got into trouble with asbestos. Justice, a US retail chain, again aimed at girls, announced last summer it had stopped selling a highlighter powder following a TV report alleging the product contained asbestos.

Clearly, the issue is not just that the cancer-causing substance can get into products, it can also be found in retail premises, where it can pose a risk to shoppers, staff and any other visitors.

Asbestos-containing materials often remain unnoticed in premises constructed or refurbished up until 1999, including many High Street shops and other retail units.

In August 2016, BHS famously closed the last 22 of its 94 High Street stores across the UK, many of which contained asbestos.

Meanwhile, M&S has found asbestos at different times at various branches. The flagship branch in London’s Marble Arch had to warn customers and staff about this issue as recently as 2013.

Popular retailer Woolworths also had many stores which contained asbestos as they had not been refurbished for many years. Core Surveys carried out refurbishment surveys on several of the stores prior to their refurbishment after they were bought following liquidation.

Dangers of asbestos to human health

Asbestos is toxic to the human circulatory system, and often fatal. Moving or otherwise disturbing the fibres makes them airborne, so that they can be inhaled and will sit in the system, often for years or decades without symptoms. There are no symptoms and no way of knowing you’ve inhaled the fibres, until the fibres give rise to a typically life-threatening condition from which recovery is almost impossible.

Children and young people, with more time ahead of them to develop illnesses, are especially vulnerable, making problems with brands aimed at youngsters, like Claire’s or Justice, especially serious.

In almost every case of mesothelioma, an incurable cancer affecting the lining of the lung, the cause can be traced to asbestos. Despite the asbestos legislation that’s now effective, there are more mesothelioma deaths in the UK than anywhere else worldwide.

More information

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has an area of its website dedicated to giving information about asbestos.

Visit it here:

http://www.hse.gov.uk/asbestos/

Get an asbestos survey

These stories of asbestos discoveries in shops or their products highlight the importance of not taking any chances with asbestos, especially with buildings the public visit. The only way to be 100% sure a building is either free from asbestos or that it is being managed effectively is to conduct an asbestos survey.

Core Surveys, based in Fletching Common, East Sussex, and Monmouthshire, South Wales works nationwide. We’re fully accredited to undertake all types of asbestos inspections and testing, while also providing asbestos management services and awareness training. Our clients range from homeowners to charities and large organisations – we help with legal compliance on asbestos. Talk to a member of the team to learn more.

Poor quality asbestos surveys could cost schools millions

November 23, 2017

Some of the sites the government is buying for free schools don’t have current asbestos surveys, meaning the taxpayer could have to fit a potential bill of millions for the necessary refurbishments once asbestos is discovered later on, Schools Week reports.

Experts have said that because the Education Funding Agency (EFA) is ‘under pressure’ to find sites for free schools, the resulting surveys of ‘varying quality’ haven‘t always identified all asbestos in all school buildings.

And John McClean, chair of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee, says ‘political pressure’ to find school sites means the EFA has to rely on ‘rushed’ site surveys.

Yet, just last year, minister for vulnerable children Edward Timpson insisted the EFA should complete asbestos surveys before a site was purchased ‘if further investigation’ was deemed necessary.

Now it’s being reported that at least six schools had the green light from the EFA without a proper survey having been done. Freedom of Information requests revealed that a number asked for more money after asbestos was subsequently discovered.

What’s more, the bill for removing asbestos can run to as much as £5m. A school must then be made serviceable once more before pupils can move back in.

Labour MP Rachel Reeves, chair of the Asbestos In Schools steering group, described the government’s ‘failure’ to carry out appropriate asbestos survey work at all pre-2000 sites (i.e. before the year when the carcinogenic substance was banned) as ‘grossly negligent’. She added that schools were potentially also risking staff and pupils’ health.

Schools in Blackburn, Bournemouth and Bradford were found to have extensive or high-risk asbestos on their sites. In Nottingham, the EFA gave an institution the go-ahead before a survey found white asbestos around pipework and floor debris, although this was removed before students moved in.

Better surveys from the outset, along with competent asbestos awareness training for staff, would save money and be less disruptive in the long run by removing all asbestos at an earlier stage.

The Department for Education stressed that the government was investing £23bn in school buildings by 2021, which ‘would help manage asbestos safely’.  It also says it is changing the way information about asbestos is collected in schools to enhance understanding.

At Core Surveys, we find reports like this worrying and believe they firmly highlight the need for high-quality, effective asbestos refurbishment and demolition surveys carried out at an early stage of any building project, whether it’s a refurbishment or new build, for a school or any other type of premises.

With more than four decades’ combined experience in the asbestos survey industry, we’re specialist consultants in this field for asbestos management surveys, refurbishment and demolition surveys. Core Surveys are UKAS accredited to ISO17020 for undertaking asbestos surveys and all samples are analysed at our in-house laboratory which is UKAS accredited to ISO17025. We are also UKAS accredited for asbestos air monitoring during and following asbestos removal, which means we are perfectly placed to offer the full asbestos consultancy package from survey through to project management and sign-off of asbestos removal, ensuring that you comply with the law at all times.

A good survey, carried out at the right time, will save your organisation money in the long run. Talk to us today.

Asbestos refurbishment surveys: why they’re important

November 8, 2017

Asbestos-related health conditions are ‘silent killers’ which take the lives of more people than road accidents do. Indeed, there are no asbestos fibres which can be classed as safe – all can lead to the same diseases and so are treated equally under UK legislation and guidance.

At the turn of the millennium, this carcinogenic substance was outlawed for new builds, but because anything built before then could contain it, asbestos refurbishment surveys must be done on structures built Pre 2000. This also keeps contractors, builders and anyone else working on or visiting a property safe.

What does a Management and a Refurbishment Survey do?

An asbestos survey will highlight whether a property has any asbestos material, as far as reasonably practicable. And, if you own a non-domestic building, you’re legally obliged to make sure it’s handled properly and not disturbed. Safe handling of asbestos is vital to keep the risk of exposing occupants to fibres as low as possible.

Management asbestos surveys are non-intrusive, visual inspections at which samples of relevant materials are taken for testing at an accredited lab. Core Surveys have their own in-house asbestos testing laboratory, accredited to UKAS ISO17025.

In contrast, refurbishment surveys are described as ‘intrusive and destructive’, and locate all asbestos-containing materials before a place is refurbished, whether that’s a whole building or part of a structure.

One is needed even if you have already identified where you have asbestos in a particular structure and will examine relevant material, and the surrounding areas which could also have asbestos, including walls and ceilings.

Where a building is to be completely demolished, a different kind of survey, again clearly a destructive one, is carried out known as a demolition survey.

Whatever kind of survey your property needs, it’s vital that this work is carried out by a professional, experienced asbestos surveyor able to identify asbestos-containing materials safely.

Finally, it’s clearly also important that your asbestos survey is done early on, before any refurbishment work starts.

At Core Surveys we’re specialist consultants in management, refurbishment and demolition surveys. We’re UKAS accredited (United Kingdom Accreditation Service) to ISO17020 for undertaking asbestos surveys, and all samples are analysed at our in-house laboratory, UKAS accredited to ISO17025.

We’re also UKAS accredited for asbestos air monitoring during and following asbestos removal, which means we are perfectly placed to offer a full asbestos consultancy package from survey through to project management and sign-off of asbestos removal, ensuring that you comply with the law at all times. Get in touch now.

Independent Means Impartial

February 16, 2015

An Asbestos Survey from an Independent Surveyor Will Definitely be Impartial

When booking or commissioning an asbestos survey it is best to go to an independent surveyor. This will ensure that the recommendations are completely impartial and could save you money as a result.

Read more

Northamptonshire firms fined for asbestos failings

December 22, 2014

Two Northamptonshire firms have been fined after a routine safety inspection revealed serious asbestos-related failings.

Northampton Magistrates’ Court heard today (22 Dec) that Lifting Systems Ltd had contracted Durasteel Services Ltd to refurbish an asbestos cement roof at its Crown Works in Far Cotton.

When inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) visited the site on 22 October 2013 to check the work they found asbestos insulation board had been removed and stored on the premises, and that debris had been placed in waste skips around the site.

A Prohibition Notice was served to immediately stop any further work.

A subsequent investigation found that although Lifting Systems Ltd was the client, the company had undertaken a lot of the refurbishment work, including the removal of the majority of old asbestos cement roofing panels. It did not have an up to date asbestos register and did not carry out an asbestos demolition and refurbishment survey, which would have highlighted areas of asbestos to be considered during the refurbishment.

Durasteel Services Ltd failed to carry out an asbestos assessment to identify the potential for asbestos to be disturbed and put effective control measures in place.

The court was told that neither company had a licence to remove asbestos.

Lifting Systems Ltd, of Crown Works, Main Road, Far Cotton, Northampton, was fined a total of £14,000 and ordered to pay £523 in costs after pleading guilty to three breaches of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012.

Durasteel Services Ltd, of Kingsfield Way, Kingsfield Heath Industrial Estate, Northampton, was fined £10,000 and ordered to pay costs of £523 after admitting one breach of the same regulations.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Sam Russell said:

“This case highlights the importance of businesses having strong policies to enable identification of asbestos as part of their normal working practices. The refurbishment work started three months before HSE visited the site, so the risks from asbestos had not been controlled for some time.

“Lifting Systems Ltd made little effort to survey or identify asbestos in the premises before starting work, so failed to identify the presence of asbestos insulation board lining panels underneath the asbestos roofing sheets. The panels were broken up and placed in skips, putting construction workers and other employees at risk of exposure to carcinogenic asbestos fibres. An asbestos survey had been carried out by the previous owners of the premises and highlighted the asbestos which was removed. However, the premises had been derelict for a period of time and the infrastructure had been damaged and vandalised meaning the old survey was not current and fit for purpose and a new one was required.

“Durasteel Services Ltd was complicit in the removal of asbestos insulation board during the refurbishment. The company should have conducted an assessment to see if any work it undertook would have the potential to disturb asbestos materials and taken appropriate action to introduce control measures.”

On average, 20 tradespeople die each week from asbestos-related diseases. Free, practical advice on working with asbestos is available on the HSE’s web app at http://www.beware-asbestos.info/

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