This article follows on from our previous blog post, Asbestos the silent killer
Asbestos is the UK’s biggest cause of work-related deaths. In fact, Asbestos has claimed the lives of 50,000+ people in the last 3 decades. While Asbestos can take some time to develop it can cause Mesothelioma, asbestos is and lung cancer. These diseases don’t just affect workers, they can also affect their families if they have inadvertently come into contact with it.
It can take up to 30 years for someone to show symptoms of Mesothelioma and the other diseases that Asbestos can cause. This is why it’s often hard to work out what is causing the symptoms. Some people may not have realised they were working in a building that contained Asbestos or even realised that they had come into contact with Asbestos. This is usually why many people are shocked that they are suffering from Mesothelioma, asbestos is or lung cancer.
What Exactly is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a mineral that was once quite widely used during the 1960s and 1970s. The reason behind its use comes down to the fact that it was considered to be a very versatile material in the building industry. While the use of Asbestos has been banned for many years it can still be found in some buildings. This is because some older buildings still stand and are considered to be structurally safe. While many old buildings have been torn down and replaced with something new, there are still old ones located all over the UK that contain Asbestos.
This material was once used in shipbuilding, insulation, textiles and fireproofing. Unfortunately, this means that thousands of people who worked in these industries were potentially exposed to it.
The Risk of Exposure Today
As we have already seen, Asbestos is no longer used due to its disease-causing properties. However, there is still a risk of exposure, especially in the construction industry. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advice on Asbestos is that there is still a high risk of exposure to people with certain job roles, in particular, those work as:
- Construction Worker
- Computer installation engineers
- Demolition workers
- Fire and burglar alarm installers
- Gas Fitters
- General maintenance workers
- Heating and ventilating engineers
- Painters and Decorators
- Roofing Contractors
- Telephone engineers
- Architects, Building Surveyors and other such professsionals
How Can Workers Stay Safe?
In our last blog on Asbestos, we looked at the training required to deal with the discovery of the substance along with what to do if Asbestos is uncovered. Here we look at the regulations that mean that the duty holder needs to manage workers’ exposure to Asbestos.
On non-domestic premises, under the regulations the duty holder must by law:
- Identify materials that may contain Asbestos
- Keep up to date records about the Asbestos
- Assess the risk of exposure
- Plan how any risks will be managed
- Inform anyone who may work on the building
- Inform anyone who may disturb the Asbestos
The Health and Safety Executive has an ‘Asbestos Licensing Unit’ that regulates every company who is working with Asbestos and grants them a licence to carry out any required work.
Asbestos Management Plans
If Asbestos is found to be present, then as the employer you should provide workers with a ‘management plan’ by law. This managment plan should identify the type of Asbestos that has been found, along with the type and level of exposure employees are likely to deal with. The plan will also cover how you plan to eliminate or reduce the exposure and how as the employer you intend to monitor the exposure of your employees.
As the employer i.e. Principal Contractor on a project, you should provide full and complete training along with any relevant information to employees that could be at risk of exposure.
No attempts should ever be made to remove Asbestos unless you have a refurbishment and demolition survey in place. The survey will determine whether the asbestos removal will require a licensed contractor to remove. If so, prior to any removal an asb5 notification should be submitted to the HSE prior to carrying out the works. If the works are non licensed non-notifiable then appropriate removal training should have been received.
Once removal has taken place on the building the duty holder should keep all removal records for 40 years. From this, an updated management plan should be in place to reflect the items removed from the building and those that remain.
There is always a risk when working with older buildings of Asbestos exposure, but employers can minimise the risks by putting in place work plans, appropriate PPE, Face-Fit Testing and the appropriate training. Effective communication of the dangers is key so that workers can carry out their roles with safety in mind and employers will be safe in the knowledge that they are doing everything they can to protect their team.
Asbestos Awareness Training
There is no legal requirement to repeat formal refresher awareness training every 12 months however, some form of refresher awareness as necessary, this may include e-learning or as part of other health and safety updates. If you require asbestos awareness training refresher our accredited e-learning asbestos awareness courses could be the solution. It provides an economical solution to your training needs and can fit around you and your business. For more information please see our training page.