Workers get exposed to asbestos during the ship recycling process, which results in chronic occupational health impacts. Disposed asbestos on beaches contaminates the surrounding environment.
Asbestos is primarily found as an insulation material in the form of laggings on the steam pipes and exhaust pipes of the main engine, aux engines, and boilers on older vessels. Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM) are found in flange joints and gaskets of different pipelines. From 1st January 2011, the new installation of materials that contain asbestos is prohibited on all ships. IMO and EUSRR made it mandatory to have an Inventory of Hazardous Material (IHM) onboard vessels. End-of-Life ships are delivered to the recycling facilities with the IHM Part I, II, and III. The places where asbestos and ACM are present are marked and identified as per the ship-specific Ship Recycling Plan (SRP) and Part I of IHM. Where there is a doubt regarding the presence of asbestos, a fresh sample is taken and tested in certified laboratories to confirm the presence of asbestos. The workers use adequate PPE, which comprises helmets, safety glasses, masks, hand gloves, safety shoes, boiler suits, and disposable overalls while removing and packaging asbestos. While handling asbestos to avoid dispersion in the air, an enclosed area is created. The area is barricaded with warning signposts to prevent unauthorized access. Asbestos is made wet before and during the removal process to suppress it. Pipe joints or machinery gaskets containing ACM are removed in such a way that ACM are not disturbed.
Removed asbestos and ACM are packed in the approved packaging, which comprises double-layered plastic bags. The bags are labeled, sealed, and stored in the designated isolated areas in the recycling facility. The recycling yard delivers these bags containing asbestos to the Gujarat Enviro Protection Infrastructure Ltd. (GEPIL) for final disposal.
The asbestos is solidified and stabilized with cement and water, converting it into solid cubes and disposed of into an engineered landfill at GEPIL (with HDPE geo liner and multiple layers of solids).
It is evident that with the availability of trained workers, adequate PPE, SOPs, and GEPIL infrastructure, asbestos and ACM are removed and disposed of in a safe and environmentally sound way at HKC compliant recycling facilities in India. The myth of child workers handling asbestos with bare hands and polluting air, water, and land does not exist anymore. The progress made by the recycling facilities in India is noteworthy.
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