10 OCTOBER 2001

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Asbestos removal in Malta

Asbestos is an ugly word. However this was not always the case and in fact until a few decades ago, Asbestos was considered to be one of nature's best raw materials to solve most insulation problems.

Since it was established that Asbestos is a slow but sure killer, with latent but disastrous effect on the lungs of those that come in contact with it there was a slow initial world-wide reaction which has now gathered momentum, firstly not to use this material any more for any purpose and secondly to remove all existing asbestos insulation to be found in cladding, ceilings, partitioning and the many other areas where it had previously been applied.

The successful claims of hundreds of thousands of patients world-wide who had developed cancer of the lungs running into billions of dollars due to their previous involvement with Asbestos, has added to the motivation for Government and other Authorities to step up their decisions to undertake the removal of Asbestos where it existed.

Removing asbestos however is not so simple, and for certain this is a job for the experts. One of the world's specialists in Asbestos removal is Cape East Limited of UK who for many years had mined asbestos in South Africa and was one of the world's foremost authories in Asbestos.

Cape East were introduced to Malta in 1998 by Project Support, Engineering and Services, a division of MCE Limited to undertake an Asbestos removal project for Enemalta Corporation. Since then they have taken job after job having done all kinds of Asbestos Removal projects for Malta Drydocks, Gozo General Hospital, Enemalta Petroleum Division, the US Navy ship La Salle and many others.

They have also undertaken similar jobs on vessels undergoing repair work at Malta Drydocks.

Cape East have had an HSE Asbestos Licence to carry out removal of asbestos insulation, coatings and insulation board since licences were first granted in UK in 1984. This licence also includes the erection of scaffolding where it is foreseeable that asbestos could be disturbed. It is reviewed and renewed by HSE on a three yearly basis. Cape East's licence was last renewed in March 2001.

Cape has offices throughout the Middle East' the Far East' the former Soviet Union and Central and South America. Asbestos removal works are carried out to the same rigorous standard in many of these locations.

All the work done by Cape East is controlled by working to the Cape Industrial Services Limited Integrated Management Systems Asbestos Procedures Manual. This complies with the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations, the Asbestos (Licensing) Regulations and the Associated Approved Codes of Practice and Guidance Notes.

Asbestos removal has many stages which must be followed impeccably in view of the critical nature of the material. Every job has to be studied and tooling up will depend very much on the type of work to be undertaken. Sealing off of areas is another important stage, with the material removed having to be double bagged and sealed in polythene bags with approved labelling. Sophisticated instruments are used to measure any asbestos particles in the air and the air is subsequently filtered and purified.

For the time being Malta is not geared up to handle the disposal of this Asbestos Waste and currently this is being stored on the Island in the most secure manner possible. A more permanent disposal programme has to be established by Government in line with international requirements.

Cape East uses specialised labour to carry out this hazardous activity. All operators are fully trained and undergo annual refresher courses on the handling of asbestos waste. They have a two yearly medical test and are protected by insurance cover and personalised protective clothing.

It is understood that there exists several other areas in Malta which still have asbestos insulation that needs to be removed for the health and safety of the people using such premises.

Cape East' with the full support and co-operation of MCE Limited, will be dedicating 2002 to identify, propose action plans and undertake the removal from Malta of one of the world's most dangerous materials that is Asbestos Insulation and Waste.

For further information, advise and a free estimate of works one can contact the local representatives MCE Limited on Tel. No.: 21 486213.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt