Carl Jansen is the Maintenance Activity Coordinator at the Dow Chemical Company (DOW). At DOW, his responsibilities cover all things asbestos. In industrial companies, safety and time constraints play huge roles. Jansen gives us a glimpse behind the scenes to show us how one of the Netherlands’ largest industrial companies has been dealing with the recent developments in the world of asbestos.
‘In our company, safety is our top priority,’ Jansen says with conviction. ‘There are daily inspections and tasks that must be carried out step-by-step and checked off according to a strict procedure. The procedures are regularly assessed and, if necessary, updated. In addition to safety, time is an incredibly important factor within this industry. In the case of asbestos, we always choose the best abatement methods. But we’re also a company that works 24/7. Our installations are not designed for standstills. Therefore, final checks must be carried out as quickly as possible.’
‘When abating asbestos, we often use the so-called glovebag method, whereby a flap with an inner pocket is fastened around the asbestos-containing material. In addition to glovebags, we also use custom-made containers. For removing coatings, we recently made extensive use of the sponge-blasting system. This system employs sponges that are soaked in an abrasive agent. The advantage of this is that it creates much less dust, and is carried out at a much lower pressure than conventional jet-blasting methods.’
Instead of using the LAVS (the Dutch National Asbestos Register), DOW uses their own data management system. Jansen: ‘On a separate "Asbestos server", all reports, analyses, releases and other data are documented. All departments have access to this system. In my opinion, the LAVS contributes little to industrial companies – it was clearly developed for the housing sector, and is inappropriate for our industrial installations.’
DOW believes knowledge and knowledge sharing are very important. ‘Training one’s own staff well is incredibly important in order to properly oversee an asbestos dossier of a company as large as DOW. Each department has at least one employee who has completed their DTA (professional asbestos removal supervisor) training. Thanks to this knowledge, they can consult both with the client and contractors. Due to the new legislation, companies are no longer allowed to enter their specialists for the standard DTA exam. Depending on changes in the world of asbestos, we now organize a yearly update for all of our DTA staff in the form of a specially tailored training course. The reactions to this have been very positive.’
In industrial companies it is often the installation engineer who, as a contractor, comes into contact with asbestos. However, according to Jansen, this distribution of roles does not lead to tensions between the two branches. ‘In industrial companies, we’ve noticed that asbestos is a tricky material for contractors who have no experience with it. They’re not always sure what they should and shouldn’t do. They’d rather be safe than sorry, so they decide that they don't want anything to do with asbestos. However, there are also contractors who do see opportunities, such as piping firms that are prepared to remove gaskets in a responsible way. We are currently validating a method for this in collaboration with various contractors.’
VIA, a full consultation partner
The recent developments in laws and regulations have also led to various solution-oriented initiatives and partnerships. A good example of this is the VIA (United Industry Asbestos Consultation) foundation, in which industrial parties join forces in order to make the laws and regulations relating to asbestos more applicable to our industry. Jansen: ‘DOW sends representatives to VIA because it’s the ideal platform for asbestos-related matters in industrial companies. Much asbestos legislation relates to housing construction, and is therefore not always clear or applicable to our sector. VIA’s goal is to contribute its know-how and help shape legislation. The foundation is part of various working groups and commissions at NEN and Ascert, and consults at various levels with ministries such as the Ministry of Economic Affairs, the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. Occasionally, VIA also attends SER’s (the Social and Economic Council of the Netherlands) commission meetings. You could say that we’ve become a full consultation partner, even in The Hague.