History shows asbestos has been widely used across the world for thousands of years. Aptly translating as ‘inextinguishable’ in Greek, asbestos has been used historically in many applications due to its strength and heat resistant properties. Whether woven or spun into other materials, or mixed into cement, resins and rubbers, asbestos-containing materials can be traced back to 3000 BC when asbestos cloth was used in Ancient Egypt to embalm Egyptian pharaohs. In the UK, asbestos was widely used from the 19th Century onwards with the first recorded asbestos product dating back to 1857. However, the valuable properties of asbestos were acknowledged for hundreds of years without realising the significant dangers and health hazards they present from exposure.
In addition to asbestos, other hazardous materials commonly found in museums include mercury, which is used in thermometers and other scientific equipment and lead, which is primarily used as a weight although it has appeared in a variety of objects such as Roman coffins. Historic collections have also been treated in the past with various hazardous chemicals such as arsenic and methyl bromide as a form of pest control.
Museums and historic buildings, along with the valuable artefacts they hold are an essential part of our heritage and must be cared for and protected. However, it is important to address the risk of asbestos and other hazardous materials, which, without appropriate awareness, can pose a risk to staff, visitors and others working with the collections.
Lucion Environmental has extensive experience in this sector with teams specifically trained to work on heritage sites and museums with historic collections.
Lucion Environmental has worked with English Heritage for several years helping them to maintain compliance with CAR 2012 across many prehistoric sites including medieval castles, Roman forts and country houses. We have provided surveys, air testing, soil sampling and asbestos remediation works to facilitate various maintenance and property upgrade works going on at any one time across their property portfolio. As expert asbestos consultants, we have also assisted in asbestos testing in soils on archaeological digs and excavations.
We have also delivered asbestos management surveys for British Museum sites across England and continue to provide re-inspections of their known asbestos-containing materials at each property on an annual basis. We ensure that asbestos items are being managed effectively and asbestos is not being left in situ in poor condition with materials being remediated as per guidance and best practice.
From assessment through to project completion, our qualified inspectors and surveyors are experienced in assessing museum buildings, plant equipment and historical items. Due to their fragile nature and their historical significance, we pay particular care and attention whilst maximising the value of report results. Therefore our staff are trained to take extreme care when working in the vicinity of historic artefacts and specific considerations which are outlined in project specific method statements and risk assessments.
Heritage sites, museums and their historic collections form an important part of our cultural heritage. It is important to have confidence in the ability of the individuals working directly on or in the vicinity of these precious objects.
In some key heritage projects, we have developed bespoke working methodologies, approved by curators / conservation teams in order to best protect the historic items we work with. Such precautions must always be considered alongside the risks posed by the hazardous materials, to allow for the safe and continued operation of the locations. This demonstrates our expertise and ability to meet the specific needs of our clients in this sector.
Lucion is currently acting as the sole supplier of asbestos consultancy services at 9 museum sites and has worked at many more over the last 15 years. Some of our museum clients have continued to use our expertise for more than 10 years from our first introduction, demonstrating the trusted relationship we continue to maintain with them.
The volume of experience gained in this niche and very important sector will allow us to continue supporting our clients for many more years to come.
We provide access to our cloud based asbestos management system, NexGen, so museum and heritage site staff can review all asbestos data for the site at any time and from any device with a web browser. Access is also provided to other selected supply chain members such as electricians and plumbers so that they can check the asbestos register for the area they are working in prior to starting. Furthermore, we now provide other services to ensure continued compliance with Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012, including annual re-inspections of all known asbestos containing materials, bulk sampling, and pre-refurbishment surveys ahead of planned maintenance, upgrade and reactive works.
We also regularly work directly with museums and heritage sites for their capital works schemes where we provide pre-refurbishment surveys, air monitoring and project management of asbestos remediation works to enable asbestos containing materials to be identified and removed or encapsulated ahead of large scale refurbishment and upgrade works.