Asbestos in School Flooring

There has been much interest in the press recently about the use of asbestos in school buildings. It’s fairly likely an asbestos audit on an older building would uncover the use of vinyl tiles containing asbestos, which may trigger the process of removal and replacement. Undoubtedly there’s a concern for the health and safety of teachers, pupils and other people working onsite.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a general term which covers six fibrous silicates, which have historically been used in various types of building materials.

However, in this case, we are specifically concerned with the silicate ‘chrysotile’ which was incorporated for its thermal and acoustic properties - for example, into vinyl floor tiles commonly known as thermo-plastic tiles.

The asbestos content in vinyl tiles varies from 12-50%, the exact value being dependent on where and when they were produced. The manufacture of vinyl tiles containing chrysotile, also known as ‘white asbestos’, ceased in 1979.

All vinyl tiles containing asbestos were manufactured 22.9cm (9 inches) square. The asbestos fibres were incorporated within the matrix of the product. Years of polishing and cleaning will have sealed these fibres into the tiles, while the bitumen adhesive used to lay them will also have been absorbed into the back of the tiles. 

Removal of tiles containing asbestos

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) confirms licensing and notification requirements will not apply;

·         where the exposure of employees to asbestos is sporadic and of low intensity

·         if it is clear from the risk assessment that the exposure of any employee to asbestos will not exceed the control limit.

Therefore it is not necessary to use a fully licensed contractor or advise the HSE when removing materials in which the asbestos fibres are firmly linked in a matrix.

Removal method

In accordance with HSE requirements;

·         tiles must be carefully uplifted using a scraper or shovel

·         tiles must be twice bagged

·         tiles must be passed to a licensed waste disposer for clearance.

Voke Flooring and Interiors have many years’ experience of asbestos floor removal, advising and implementing removal methods, replacements and wider projects. If you need any help or advice on this, please contact us on 0118 957 6337. For further reading on the subject, the HSE offers some useful advice.