Offshore installations built before 1999 can contain asbestos-containing materials (ACMs). The older the installation the more likely that the higher risk materials such as lagging and boarding will be present. Other ACMs liable to be found offshore include: external sheeting, brake linings, arc shields for electrical switchgear, and gaskets.
Increased maintenance and fabrication activities, which are required to deal with the aging offshore infrastructure, have resulted in a greater potential for exposure to asbestos. There have been several incidents where asbestos has been poorly managed and subsequently disturbed. This has lead to exposure to asbestos fibres, costly and disruptive clean-ups and in several cases formal enforcement action by HSE.
This picture shows what happened when a duty holder failed to identify ACMs under a freezer floor before ripping it up. The white material is a product known as Caposil, containing up to 25% amosite (brown) asbestos, and it was removed without any control measures. Airborne asbestos fibre levels are likely to have been very high with contamination spread around surrounding areas.
Other examples include:
- Compressed asbestos fibre (CAF) gaskets not being identified before work began and subsequently removed without any precautions
- Maintenance work on external panelling, which turned out to contain asbestos
- Cutting penetrations through accommodation walls, which turned out to contain asbestos
- Widening a freezer door. The walls were metallic but because an intrusive (Refurbishment and Demolition) survey was not carried out the internal asbestos insulating board was not identified before the wall was cut with a power saw
Comprehensive information and guidance on managing the risk from asbestos can be found at the HSE Asbestos site.
Although most work with ACMs must be carried out by somebody who holds a license from HSE, not all work requires this. The manual of task sheets in Asbestos essentials will be particularly helpful for installation maintenance and allied trades on how to safely carry out non-licensed work involving ACMs such as removing an asbestos-containing "arc shields" and asbestos-containing gaskets.