During your construction course you will learn to use many different materials as you prepare for your future career. As you can expect it is therefore important to know of any health and safety requirements when using these materials. Before 1972 the most common element used to insulate buildings was asbestos. Only much later did we find out that breathing this in could result in lung restrictive illnesses and even death.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was commonly used in buildings for insulation, including schools, offices and homes. Asbestos fibres are exceptionally strong and resistant to heat. It is usually found in ceiling tiles, flooring and pipes.

Asbestos only becomes a danger when it is disturbed, causing the fibres to become airborne. This is commonly referred to as friable asbestos (while intact asbestos is non-friable), and lungs are susceptible to breathing in the airborne fibres. Research has yet to determine a safe level of exposure, but one thing is for certain - the more prolonged the exposure, the greater the risk becomes for developing an asbestos related disease.

Asbestos related diseases

There are three diseases that are triggered by inhaling asbestos fibres: Asbestosis, Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer. Asbestosis is caused when the fibres are inhaled and become trapped in the lungs. In response, the body tries to dissolve the fibres by producing an acid. While not destroying the fibres, the acid serves to scar the lung tissue. Eventually the scarring can become so severe that the lungs become unable to function. The time from exposure to the manifestation of asbestosis in most patients is between 25 to 40 years.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the outside tissue of the lungs. This cancer is solely linked to asbestos. The time from exposure to manifestation is from 15 to 35 years. Lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos, however the chances of development are greatly increased with smoking. The exposure to manifestation period is again around 15 to 35 years.

The risk of being exposed to asbestos is increased by the presence of construction. Work on ceilings and flooring can cause the asbestos to become friable. This is why non-friable asbestos is often recommended to be left intact and not removed. Asbestos does not just chip away or decompose; it must be physically disturbed to pose a threat to human health.

Asbestos is required to be removed, either before or during a construction project, or due to an accidental disturbance. Health & Safety Regulations require that certain precautions and procedures take place. These regulations aim to ensure that the appropriate steps are taken during an abatement procedure, and all health and safety precautions are taken.

So the answer to the question at the start of this post - how dangerous is asbestos? Very dangerous!

- Richard James

The 1st class cricketing countries are about to start their annual campaigns. Amatuer cricket clubs are preparing for the up and coming season - all hoping for a summer of sunshine and warmth. Families are planning to tidy up the garden, trim the hedges, cut the grass, have barbeques and generally have lots of fun in their gardens. The patio lights are about to be brought back to life - but are they safe?

The lights have probably been exposed to the elements all winter long - drenched by rain, buried in snow and buffeted about by strong winds. The damage they have sufffered may not be immediately evident. Even if you throw the switch and the lights come on they may not be safe! The internal damage may not be apparent until some some poor unfortunate soul touches them - FLASH BANG one of your loved ones is now lying on the floor having received an electric shock (it could even be you!). The lawn mower and hedge cutters have also been stored away in the cold damp shed. Have they suffered any adverse effects from months of inactivity? Do you want to find out the hard way?

It would be a good idea to have the lights (and any other electrical equipment you intend to use in the garden) checkeds out by a competent electrician. Just to make sure it is safe and in good working condition. The small cost involved could be the difference between having a "glorious" summer and a summer never to be forgotten!

- Mark Jenkins

Q: What do I do if my radiator panel is leaking?

This is due to the metal corroding/rusting, and the first sign of it happening is that the floor under the radiator gets wet when the heating is on. The first thing to do is to turn off both radiator valves to stop any more fluid being lost from the pipe system, which can affect the boiler and the rest of the radiators. Place a container under the radiator to catch any more drips of fluid.

If you don't have any plumbing knowledge it would be more cost effective to employ a qualified plumber/heating engineer to do the work required - the immediate emergency has been dealt with, and you can afford to get some quotes for the work to be done. It shouldn't cost an arm and a leg, as radiator panels are readily available for most plumbing merchants if it's a standard style (i.e. a flat straight panel, not once that has been bowed for a curved wall like a bay window). So for the cost of the radiator panel and a few hours' labour time, the work should be completed to a satisfactory level.

For those of you who feel they have good mechanical experience and the correct tools, then you may want to attempt it yourself. Firstly you will have to measure the width and height of the radiator panel, and determine the style of radiator. If you're not sure, stand as close as possible to it, look directly down at the top and take a photo of the top edge. Show the assistant at the plumbing merchant and they'll be able to give you a similar one.

Once you have purchased the radiator you will need to drain the old one and dismantle the fittings. The tools required for the change-over are a masonry drill and drill-bit of the appropriate size for the wall plug you will be using (red wall plugs and a 6mm masonry drill-bit for example). Use pozi-drive screws rather than slotted head ones, as there's less chance of the screwdriver slipping. When using the driver, the screw should be at least an inch and a half to two inches long for large radiators.

For plasterboard walls a toggle bolt is one of the many fixings suitable for this type of wall. You'll need two adjustable spanners, a radiator bleed key and possibly a radiator valve key (this looks like an oversized Allen key). With the two adjustable spanners, one is used to hold the top of the radiator valve (with the head taken off) to stop it rocking on the pipe when you undo the nut to panel connection. For draining and disconnection, if you have a combination boiler turn the heating controls off so that the heating system cools down before starting on the replacement. Then affter changing the radiator you will need to repressurize the system to 1 Bar for up to 10 radiators. If you have a standard or back boiler the heating controls still need to be off, so that the pump is not running when you refill the exchanged radiator.

Before starting to drain you might want to put a bin liner on the floor with an old towel on top to catch any spills you might get under the radiator valve. When the radiator starts to drain from the nut you will need to open the little air bleed at the top on one end to allow all the fluid to drain out. When this has finished, again put a bin liner and old towel under the the other radiator valve. Now you can undo both valve-to-panel nuts all the way.

With these nuts undone, and depending on the size of the radiator you will have to gently move the pipes with the valves on towards the wall to enable you to put your thumb over the hole that will be there on the radiator. Lift the radiator off the brackets, keeping your thumbs over the holes and the radiator vertical so that it can be taken to a safe area to drain any sludge that occurs at the bottom of the radiator down a sewer drain.

The new radiator can be dressed with the new fittings for the top and the old fittings at the bottom. As for the joining of the new radiator and valves, it will have to be hung on new brackets. Then you can join the valves and the panel together via the nuts, again using the two adjustable spanners to do up the valve nuts in the same way you undone them. Make sure that the new air bleed at the top of the radiator is shut, and open both radiator valves at the same time to allow the pressure from both pipes to refill the radiator panel. You can then bleed the air from the valve at the top at one end until water comes out. For a combination boiler you will need to refill the system to 1 Bar, via the filling point directly under the boiler. With the pressure obtained turn the filling point off. With a standard/back boiler this will self-fill from the little plastic container in the loft. With the radiator bled of air it will be safe to turn the heating controls back on and get the radiators hot again.

- Mark Lewis

 

After reading this are you tempted to have a go at this or various other DIY tasks yourself? Or even considering a new career as a professional plumber? At Access Training we provide a number of professional plumbing courses suitable for whether you're looking to gain industry-standard qualifications and become a plumber or simply looking to gain some new skills for your home renovation projects. For more information contact us on 0800 345 7294.

Asking this raises a number of other questions. The plumber may be capable of connecting cables to the shower but does he know how to check that the existing cable can take the load current of the new shower? Does he know how to carry out all the required electrical tests that are required when installing new electrical equipment? Does he have access to the required test equipment to allow him to perform the tests (this equipment is expensives - in the region of £600+, and usually only carried by qualified electricians)? If he has access, is it the right equipment? Is it manufactured to the revelent BS or EN standards? Has it been well maintained and regularly calibrated? Does he have and can correctly fill out the correct electrical test certificate for the job? Has he informed you that you will need to notify the local building authority control (any electrical installation work that has been carried out in a room containing a bath or shower has to be pre-notified as a requirement of Part P). Oh yes I nearly forgot - there is also a charge payable to the Building Control Authority to notify works under Part P!

Are you starting to wonder if the plumber is the man for the job? If you have any doubt whatsoever, no matter how small - get a "proper" electrician to do the work. One who has undergone training and experience in doing the work. Engaging an electrician who is a member of a recognised 'Competent Person Scheme' will save you the cost and hassle of dealing with the Building Control Authority.

Have you made your mind up yet?

- Mark Jenkins

 

Alternatively, would you like to have a go at this yourself? Considering a career change to become an electrician? Access Training offer a number of bespoke electrician courses to people of all ages and backgrounds, from professional qualifications to DIY courses. With qualifications including general installation, Part P training, PAT Testing and more, we're certain we have the right electrical course for you. For more information call us on 0800 345 7492.

When hiring a plumber or any other tradesperson, there are a number of things you should find out beforehand. Questions such as what kind of plumbing training they've had, their qualifications and previous experience are crucial when it comes to getting the best value for money.

The first and foremost way to find a reputable tradesman is to ask friends, family or other tradespeople for a recommendation. Others who can recommend a tradesperson have had the experience of what he/she is capable of, how much they charge for certain works, how reliable they are and most importantly how good their work is.

Failing this, there are schemes where tradespeople register with known as competent person schemes. Any tradesperson who has joined such a scheme is prepared to have his work regularly checked by such people as Building Control officers from the local council, water authorities and competent person scheme inspectors. These control the quality of the tradesperson's work, and can be trusted.

Unfortunately there is nothing to stop cowboy tradespeople setting up and trading. Only when they have ripped off a number of people who have subsequently complained to Trading Standards will there be an investigation into the quality of work and the prices they charge.

But if you have employed such a tradesperson who has not done an acceptable level of work to your property, then you have the right to call them back regardless of the price you paid them. The attitude of "you didn't pay a lot so what do you expect" is not an excuse for poor quality of work. As a tradesperson who has been in this industry for over 30 years, the price you pay for a job should not reflect the quality, and any tradesperson with a good work ethic towards their customers will not overcharge and do the job to the standard required. Their customers will feel they have had value for money and won't have to call the tradesperson back for a fault on their work.

- Mark Lewis

 

Are you looking to change careers and become a professionally qualified plumber yourself? Access Training Wales offer a number of accredited plumbing courses, not just for those looking to start a new career but also for DIY enthusiasts wanting to earn some new skills. For more information on what courses are available to you give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

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