|EPD inspectors conducting visual inspection inside an enclosure, just after removal of asbestos plaster from the ceiling.|
Asbestos Abatement in An Occupied BuildingW.Y. FONG
Dressed in protective clothing similar to a space-suit, Philip, a senior EPD inspector, was standing on top of a ladder and holding his torch close to the ceiling. "Hey, John, look at these fibres. You must clean here thoroughly again", he shouted to the asbestos contractor when he found shadows of fibres from the torch beam on the ceiling surface.
Philip was conducting a visual inspection inside an enclosure where the removal of
asbestos acoustic plaster from the ceiling had just finished. Since breathing in asbestos fibres
could lead to fatal diseases, he had to put on protective clothing and a respirator before he
went into the enclosure.
In this particular project, the Architectural Services Department, as the coordinator, had to answer the following questions before work could start:
The main project eventually started in June 1995. Work started on the ground floor and lower ground floor first to provide an asbestos free access to the building later.
The EPD conducted visual inspections to the enclosures and took samples, to check that the specialist asbestos contractor was conducting the asbestos removal work properly.
In addition to 600 air samples collected and analyzed by the accredited laboratory engaged by the contractor to monitor the fibre levels outside the enclosures, the EPD's asbestos laboratory also conducted independent air tests to countercheck the air monitoring results.
After visual inspections confirming that the enclosures were free from visible fibres, the Architectural Services Department sought support from the Government Laboratory to conduct clearance air tests to measure the concentration of invisible fibres inside the enclosures. The contractor could remove the enclosures for re-occupation only after clearance air tests results were satisfactory.
To make sure that the air ducts were cleared of invisible asbestos fibres, the Government Laboratory conducted air tests to the air ducts by scanning electron microscopy, a very sophisticated method for accurate measurement of low fibre concentration. All test results were satisfactory.
The success of an asbestos abatement project such as this one requires careful planning, sophisticated skills, and a very high standard of work. This is very important for safeguarding the environment, the health of workers involved and the health of nearby and future occupants.
On 1 May 1996, the EPD started registration under the Air Pollution Control Ordinance of asbestos professionals and laboratories. The registration system enables only those people who possess the required academic knowledge, training and experience to be registered with the Government for conducting asbestos removal work. As a result, neighbours of asbestos abatement work sites can feel comfortable. They need not worry about whether the contractor engaged in the work has the knowledge to do the job properly or whether they are exposed to unreasonable risks arising from any asbestos removal work.