Businesses use lockdown period to tackle hidden killer

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic caused huge disruption for businesses across our county. Many businesses furloughed all or some of their staff, while others left their workplaces armed only with their laptops as they began to work from home for months on end.

One unexpected benefit of this dramatic change in working practices was it allowed many business owners to get their minds around tackling another problem in their midst – asbestos.

Thousands of people have suffered serious illnesses or lost their life after being exposed to asbestos where they lived, worked or played decades ago. And, despite asbestos being banned in the UK in 1999, the toxic substance continues to affect many lives today.

“Those businesses which have been able to get their asbestos works done while their buildings have been empty have been able to have the work done in normal hours which has helped to reduce their outlay. In all honesty, there probably hasn’t been a better time to get asbestos works carried out.”

Asbestos still remains in schools, hospitals, factories, offices and homes that were built before the ban was implemented, which means the health risk posed by asbestos is as real today as it was when the substance was first put into buildings.

As a lot of asbestos-related works need to take place out of hours, while premises are unoccupied, many employers have used the past few months to make sure they are managing their asbestos correctly.

This has resulted in an upsurge of organisations turning to Northamptonshire-based Acorn Analytical Services for their expertise. The multi-disciplined asbestos consultancy has been recognised for pioneering standards of effective asbestos management since its launch in 2000.

“The prospect of managing asbestos can be daunting – particularly for those who have never done it – and I think the period around lockdown gave people the time and opportunity to get to grips with managing their asbestos,” explained company director Ian Stone.

“A lot of asbestos-related works need to take place out of hours, whilst premises are unoccupied, so the past few months have given many firms the chance to deal with asbestos-related works that they may have been putting off for ages.

“As a result, we’ve experienced a rise in enquiries from both the domestic and commercial sectors. From the domestic market we’ve been receiving queries from people who want to get samples tested, surveys and removal works done before a house goes on the market or ahead of building extension works. Simultaneously, companies in the leisure, retail and hospitality sectors wanted to get any asbestos works done while their buildings were still empty.

“Even now some premises are still unoccupied and others are continuing to operate with a skeleton staff which means it is still potentially easier and more cost-effective for businesses to organise asbestos-related works.”

Worryingly, many business owners still do not realise that it is the responsibility of duty holders of non-domestic premises to evaluate all the buildings and locations they hold which may contain asbestos. If they have a building built prior to 2000, they will need to think about asbestos.

Acorn Analytical Services were able to get a smaller version of their team back in the office fairly quickly after the onset of the pandemic so it could support firms which were turning to it for help. All its staff underwent COVID-19 training and it added additional procedures such as introducing a one entry and one exit system on sites and one-way systems.

Director Neil Munro added: “Due to the nature of working with asbestos, our team was already used to wearing PPE, masks, respirators and type 5 class 6 coveralls and have all the equipment, training and knowledge in place for working like this. We use P3 masks as standard and we’re used to decontaminating on entrance and exit and adhering to strict government guidelines.

“I think our expertise gave lots of clients the confidence to turn to us during, and in the aftermath of, lockdown.

“Those businesses which have been able to get their asbestos works done while their buildings have been empty have been able to have the work done in normal hours which has helped to reduce their outlay. In all honesty, there probably hasn’t been a better time to get asbestos works carried out.”

Acorn Analytical Services provides a variety of asbestos-related services, including asbestos surveys, asbestos air testing, asbestos removal and UKATA asbestos awareness training to help organisations manage their asbestos and meet their statutory compliance needs.


If you would like further information or advice on asbestos and how it can be removed safely, contact Acorn Analytical Services on 0844 818 0895 or email info@acorn-as.com