Demolition, refurbishment and maintenance

The TRGS 519

Safe handling of asbestos products

[Translate to Englisch:] Gebotsschild Atemschutz tragen

Can asbestos products be handled safely at all? This question is difficult to answer and almost philosophical.

One thing is certain: Because of the almost unmanageable amount of asbestos that is still built up, you have to deal with it, at least to get rid of it. And it is also clear that somebody has to do that.

There is (like almost everywhere) no 100% security, but the greatest possible protection! These include very strict limit values, strict regulations for handling material containing asbestos, classification as carcinogenic and hazardous waste and the need to dispose of all asbestos products safely in the medium term.

The Hazardous Substances Ordinance prohibits any manufacture, use and handling of products containing asbestos. But exceptions confirm the rule: Strictly speaking, this would also prohibit demolition.

In fact, according to the REACH regulation Annex XVII 6.2, there is a kind of grandfathering during the service life:

The use of products containing asbestos fibres referred to in paragraph 1 which were already installed or in use before January 1st 2005 shall continue to be permitted until such products are disposed of or their life cycle has expired.
REACH Regulation Annex XVII 6.2
[Translate to Englisch:] Warnhinweis Enthält Asbest

Operating life
Unfortunately, the REACH regulation does not provide more clarity here, because there is no indication as to what exactly the useful life is or how long it will last. Strictly speaking, the useful life ends with the end of use - so the exact useful life is only known after the end of the usage process! Everything else is an estimated useful life - and this can be interpreted very flexibly.

However, the LASI regulation provides a little more clarity. These are the guidelines for the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances. It is not defined WHAT the service life is, but at least WHEN it ends. And that:

  • If the product containing asbestos is used contrary to its original purpose at the time of installation. In other words: misappropriated. Of course, this requires a substantial change - and this is NOT permitted! Thus the service life expires.
  • If the product containing asbestos is damaged in such a way, among other things by wear and tear, that there is a danger of fibre release. Even then, the service life is over.

Otherwise: Do not touch!

DRM works

What is permitted...
According to TRGS 519 "Asbestos - demolition, remediation and maintenance work", these activities are the only exceptions to the manufacturing and use ban in accordance with the GefStoffV.

That also makes sense, because otherwise one would simply have to leave all the asbestos building sins standing. Demolition is allowed!

What is a remediation and when is it due? Exactly when a product containing asbestos is damaged. But if it is damaged and can only fulfil its purpose if it is repaired or renovated, then the useful life is already over! Does this not automatically mean that the useful life according to REACH and LASI is over?

 According to TRGS 519, remediation work includes the coating and spatial separation of weakly bound asbestos products, including the necessary ancillary work such as the inspection of asbestos-contaminated rooms for the purpose of sampling and assessment, erection of construction sites, cleaning, etc. The remediation work also includes the installation of asbestos-free materials.

However, coating contaminated products is problematic: court decisions prohibit coating because there is no product approved for coating asbestos products. However, these are individual case decisions. In general, the TRGS applies, and coating is permitted under it.

According to the guidelines for the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances, maintenance includes maintenance, inspection and repair. Repair, however, means "the restoration of a target condition", i.e. in fact the same as remediation, so this is prohibited.

Inspection and maintenance serve to ensure that the product is not repaired because small measures are taken to maintain the product in such a way that no renovation or repairs are necessary.

Inspection and maintenance
As regards maintenance, this is for the purpose of verifying that a product continues to function properly. Such work is therefore imperative. However, this work must not lead to the release of asbestos fibres.

Let us assume the maintenance of fire dampers. Depending on the type and year of construction, they may be made of material containing asbestos or the sealing rings may contain asbestos. When the flap is operated, asbestos could be released and distributed through the ventilation ducts. Now the fire protection regulation prescribes the regular examination of such flaps. For this they must be actuated. This could release asbestos. So this activity is forbidden in principle. What applies now: The fire protection or the TRGS 519 and/or the GefStoffV?

Here, the guidelines for the Ordinance on Hazardous Substances (LASI) become more concrete: The testing of fire dampers is necessary and therefore permissible. However, under certain conditions:

  • The work must be reported to the industrial inspectorate.
  • The work must be carried out by trained personnel.
  • The work must be carried out under the greatest possible safety precautions, and
  • The work may only be carried out under the supervision of one or more competent persons.

In addition, the removal of a fire damper may only be carried out by an approved specialist company.

*Anyone who has acquired asbestos expertise (including testing) during training and has the necessary experience in handling products containing asbestos is considered to be competent.

As a general rule, if the components containing asbestos do not have to be broken off, they must remain "untouched"!

Questions without clear answers

  • Where exactly does maintenance end and where does refurbishment begin?
  • Can rehabilitation now be carried out or does rehabilitation according to TRGS lead to the end of the service life according to LASI, which in turn only permits the demolition of the affected product?
  • Is coating now permitted or not and is the coating only a first aid measure or a renovation?

From an occupational health and safety point of view, all measures that reduce the risk of fiber release must be permitted.

The legal situation is therefore partly contradictory. Is it also pragmatic, so that operation can be maintained to some extent?