According to HSE guidelines the construction of cooling towers should be planned and built in a strategic manner to avoid health risks of workers. During the 1950’s asbestos was a widely used fire retardant insulator that was fabricated for use in power stations, factories, steelworks and of course the residential built environment for piping and more.
Whilst many politicians debated the serious issues related to the continued development of nuclear power stations and their role as an energy resource, they neglected to identify a major nationwide health and safety problem. This immediate danger affected construction workers in power stations who handled asbestos products on a regular basis; residents who disturbed decaying asbestos in their homes; factory workers who unknowingly inhaled deadly asbestos dust – These innocent bystanders who, years later, could be suffering devastating health concerns or have actually died from illnesses such as Mesothelioma cancer or scarred their lungs and be attempting to claim compensation for pleural plaques. More information can be read about the effects of asbestos in power stations at: “View further information on the use of asbestos in powerstations during the 1950’s“.
According to HSE (Cooling Tower Construction 4.1.2) ~ all new construction guidelines must be adhered and are detailed in ACOP L8 on design and construction in paras 70-78. HSE are particularly concerned about diseases that lie in stagnant water such as legionnaires. Legionnaires disease and the control of legionella in water systems is outlined in the Approved code of practice and L8 – http://www.hse.gov.uk/legionnaires/coolingtowers.htm
It is detailed that new cooling tower water systems must be constructed in such a way that the packs can be removed for inspection and cleaning. Pack removal can be both strenuous, laborious and take time depending on the setup. Older cooling towers contain more risk as the practicality of pack removal contains risks within itself. Often the packs are decaying with age and disintegrate on removal. The dismantling, or partial dismantle of the cooling tower is occasionally the only safe method. New cooling tower packs are designed in such a way whereby removal and access is easy. Generally through the use of access hatches and sectional pack system, or through using a hanging fill pack which basically has removable sides leaving less to clean in situ. This restricts any harmful exposure that workers, industrial cleaners and inspectors may face.