While many buildings that once contained asbestos have now been torn down or had the asbestos removed, this dangerous substance still silently kills approximately 5,000 workers each year. This alarming figure is higher than the number of people that are killed on UK roads each year.
Unfortunately, around 20 people die every week due to past asbestos exposure. However, the problem of asbestos is not confined to the past, it can still be present in any building that was built or any building that was refurbished before 2000.
Why is Asbestos Dangerous?
Asbestos is dangerous because it can cause hidden illness that may not appear for many years after someone has come into contact with it. This is why asbestos is known as “The Silent Killer”.
Exposure to asbestos can cause you to suffer from the following serious and fatal conditions:
Asbestos-related Lung Cancer
Asbestos-related lung cancer looks the same as lung cancer that has been caused by smoking and other behaviours/exposures. For every death that was caused by lung cancer, it is estimated that there is also one death from Mesothelioma.
Pleural thickening is a condition that can be caused by heavy asbestos exposure. The lining of the pleura (Lung) becomes thick and swells. If the condition is particularly bad the lung can be squeezed. This can result in a lot of discomfort and shortness of breath.
This is a type of cancer that affects the lungs’ lining. It also affects the lining surrounding the lower digestive tract. Mesothelioma is usually associated with exposure to asbestos and, unfortunately, by the time someone has received a diagnosis the condition has usually reached a fatal stage.
This condition is a serious one and sufferers often have serious scarring of their lungs. This condition is typically caused by heavy asbestos exposure over a number of years. Causing progressive shortness of breath, the condition can also be fatal.
Information on training
Employers should make sure that anyone who may disturb asbestos during their working day, or anyone who supervises the employees who may disturb asbestos gets the right training. They should have the knowledge and training that enables them to work in a safe and competent way without any risk to themselves or to other people. Safer Sphere can provide asbestos training.
The Types of Necessary Training
All workers and their supervisors should be able to recognise any materials that contain asbestos and know exactly what they should do if they come across them. There are 3 levels of information, instruction and training that workers and their supervisors need to be aware of:
Asbestos awareness – This is made up of information, training and instruction and gives workers and their supervisors the information they need so they can avoid disturbing asbestos.
Licensable work with asbestos – This is made up of those who are at a high risk of working with asbestos. Only managers and competent workers are provided with this information, training and instruction that includes using the right PPE.
Non-licensable work with asbestos – Those who need this type of information, training and instruction undertake work that requires them to disturb materials that contain asbestos. For example, drilling holes in asbestos, cleaning or repairing asbestos roofing or cement sheets.
A worker who attends a training course about asbestos will not ensure that they are competent enough. Workers must implement and consolidate the skills that have learned during their training, in their instruction and assessment and their on the job learning.
The level of information and the amount of training and instruction that a worker receives must be appropriate for the work that they do. A Training Needs Analysis (TNA) will help the workers and those training them identify the topics that need to be covered. This is to ensure that every worker is competent and can avoid putting themselves and those who they work with at risk.
How do I Identify Asbestos?
It’s not always easy to identify asbestos, however, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has an image gallery which depicts some common materials that contain asbestos. These images include but are not limited to:
- Asbestos fire blankets
- Suspended AIB ceiling tiles
- Pieces of AIB
- AIB window panelling
What do I do if I Potentially Find Asbestos During my Work?
If you unexpectedly come across asbestos or something that you think may be asbestos you should stop work right away. You will need to confirm what the material is or assume that it is asbestos. You will need to carry out a risk assessment that will help you determine whether you need a licensed contractor to carry out the work.
If you undertake non-licensed work on asbestos you should only do so if you have had the appropriate training, instruction, and information.
If I Have to Work With Asbestos is it the Responsibility of my Employer to give me Personal Protective Clothing (PPE)?
Yes, if it is likely that you will be exposed to asbestos your employers should provide you with all the personal protective clothing (PPE) you need. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has more information on the required PPE.
Do I Need a Certificate That Proves I’ve had Asbestos Training?
No, there is absolutely no legal requirement for you to have a certificate that shows you’ve had training. However, some training providers issue certificates that indicate that you’ve completed an asbestos training course.
You can read part two of this asbestos article here