OPW Asbestos Management Programme

General

Asbestos is the common name given to a group of naturally occurring minerals with long fibre characteristics.  Due to its unique fire resistant and insulation properties, the material was widely used as a construction product especially prior to the end of 1985.

Asbestos may be sub-divided into three main types:

  • Chrysotile: Normally referred to as "white asbestos". This material is the most common type of asbestos found in asbestos cement/concrete products.
  • Amosite: Commonly referred to as "brown asbestos". This material was utilised widely in the production of thermal insulation materials and fire resistant sheeting.
  • Crocidolite: Commonly referred to as "blue asbestos". This material was used as a fire resistant and thermal insulator, often in sprayed format.

The main risk associated with asbestos materials is the inhalation of asbestos fibres.  The more friable (easily crumbled) the asbestos material, the more significant the risk because fibres are more likely to get into the air. Thus, the strategy in terms of protection is to avoid exposing people to airborne fibres.

Allocation of Responsibilities

Responsibility for managing the asbestos removal programme lies with the Health and Safety Unit. All cases where staff come across asbestos in the course of their work, or have a reasonable belief that asbestos may be present, should be referred to the Unit immediately.

A number of projects involving schools, Garda stations and other Government buildings, were carried out under the Asbestos Management Programme in 2010.  Total expenditure under the programme was €3.59 million, with €2.65 million of this expended on school works on behalf of the Department of Education and Skills.  The remaining €0.94 million was spent on other buildings in State care.  The main management survey programme has reached virtual completion with a total of almost 6000 buildings having been included since its inception some years ago.

In 2010, the Asbestos Management Unit also introduced changes in the way asbestos removal works in national schools was managed.  The task of tendering these works and the placing of contracts for removal of materials was passed to the schools' Boards of Management.  This had previously been done by OPW directly.  OPW's role is now limited to providing technical expertise and support to the Schools' design teams and monitoring the removal works to ensure that statutory requirements are adhered to.