Asbestos management on the railway

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Rail safety

Safety and health practitioner

SCOOTEC examines the use and presence of asbestos-containing materials (ACM) in the rail network, both in buildings, rolling stock (trains) and rail infrastructure. As with any other industry, it is essential that sufficient information regarding the potential location of asbestos is recorded before any demolition, repair or refurbishment work. With this in mind, it is equally important for railway workers to know what to do if an ACM is disturbed, while also being aware of the health risks associated with inhaling asbestos fibers.

The general rule of thumb is that ACMs will only pose a health risk if they are disturbed or damaged. If they are in good condition and are not affected, they should not present a hazard.

However, if a building or location has no known information as to whether or not it contains asbestos, it should be assumed to contain the fibrous mineral, and action is immediately taken to determine if it does. .

Where can asbestos be found in railway premises / rolling stock?

Any train, station or depot built before the year 2000 may contain asbestos.

In buildings, it is often found in ceiling tiles, insulation boards, vinyl floor tiles, roof sheets and pipe liners, and railway buildings are no exception. Its flame retardant and insulating properties also make it a popular material for the construction and maintenance of trains.

Found primarily in engine rooms, brake pad linings and piston cylinders, asbestos in its various forms has also been found in materials such as:

  • Millboards in catering vehicles, exhaust pipes in engines / locomotives and baseboards in seat partitions (chrysotile – white asbestos)
  • Glue under locomotives and insulating panels (amosite – brown asbestos)
  • Fibers sprayed on the sides, roofs, ends and floors of railway vehicles (crocidolite – blue asbestos)
  • Textiles and circuit breakers – many older rolling stock still incorporate ACMs in textiles and circuit breakers, the latter being used in circuit breakers of all types of electrical equipment to isolate and protect circuits from short circuits
  • Asbestos cement – the fibers of asbestos cement products are firmly bonded to the material and will only be released if the product is subjected to breakage. Asbestos cement products that are used outdoors deteriorate slowly, so the risk of exposure to the release of fibers is low if the material is not disturbed
  • Ballast – can often contain some asbestos contamination due to falling train / station material and trackside debris coming in contact with tracks. When ballast is recycled, there is an opportunity to check the material and remove any contamination before use after processing.

How can you identify MCAs on rolling stock / railway premises?

When a material or component is suspected of containing asbestos, the item should be treated as an ACM until proven otherwise. This will then be identified by a person qualified as ACM or not ACM, and if applicable, the type of asbestos will also be determined. There is a range of materials incorporated into rolling stock and related infrastructure that could potentially contain asbestos, with sampling and analysis serving as the definitive means of deciphering whether the fibrous mineral is present. Some components are identified as asbestos free by stamping or by two “V” notches cut from the material.

Does the legislation concerning the management of asbestos affect my railway organization?

This is a legal requirement to determine if asbestos is present or reasonably likely to be present in a building or on rolling stock, failure to comply with having serious consequences for owners and contractors. Regulation 4 of the Asbestos Control Regulations (RAC) 2012 requires non-domestic premises duty holders to identify, locate and manage asbestos risk, and this includes structures along railway lines. , rail vehicles, stations, depots and other buildings constructed for rail related purposes.

In order to comply with the 2012 CARs, bondholders must:

  • Locate ACMs in all premises / on rolling stock and assess the risk posed to health
  • Maintain accurate and up-to-date records of the location (s) of ACMs
  • Ensure that anyone likely to disturb asbestos is aware of its location and condition
  • Develop a risk management plan and update it regularly.

While the 2013 REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals) regulation prohibits the use of asbestos in construction fabrics, the Office of Rail Regulation issued an exemption certificate in 2014, which relaxed the restrictions on the marketing and use of a railway vehicle. or component containing ACM where there is no risk to workers and the general public.

To meet the requirements of REACH Annex 5A, the following actions are required:

  • Confirm that the vehicle / component was in service or installed before January 2005
  • Take reasonable steps to remove ACMs, unless removal may increase health risk
  • Ensure that health risks are properly assessed and controlled
  • Keep accurate records of the location of ACMs in the vehicle or component.

Finally, the WM3 2015 waste classification provides advice on best practices when checking waste suspected of containing asbestos. To comply with the guidelines, railway organizations must assess whether asbestos is present as free dispersible fibers, as well as whether it represents more than 0.1% of the waste. They should then take steps to safely dispose of waste where high levels of asbestos fibers have been detected.

What is the recommended course of action when discovering or disturbing ACM?

Caution is advised when performing tasks that require drilling holes or breaking / pulling cables when surrounding material is suspected or known to contain asbestos, as such activities are very likely to release hazardous fibers in the surrounding environment.

In the event of a known or suspected disturbance of an ACM, railway workers are required to comply with the following steps:

  • Immediately cease the activity and evacuate all employees working in the area
  • Secure the area and restrict access using appropriate measures
  • Report the suspected or known MCA to the site / line manager
  • Wait for confirmation that there is no asbestos before resuming work.
  • If confirmed, the MCA should be sealed and labeled or, if necessary, removed.

How can SOCOTEC support railway organizations in the management of asbestos?

SOCOTEC’s Asbestos team is well equipped to support the rail network with asbestos management and advisory services, taking a customer-centric approach to ensure that your organization remains fully compliant with its “duty to manage” .

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