Is asbestos an issue for employers in 2013?

Asbestos Awareness

Answer: Yes it is.

A lot of people are still surprised to find out that asbestos is an issue within the UK.

The last set of figures released by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show that 4,759 people are currently dying each year from various diseases related to asbestos exposures.

This figure has increased upon previous figures and is likely to increase further!

So how does asbestos pose a risk to employers?

If asbestos can be maintained in a good condition, it is recommended that it be left alone with regular monitoring to check its condition. Its only when asbestos materials are disturbed or become damaged that it becomes a hazard.

Asbestos strands can be split into smaller and thinner fibres during disturbance. This splitting can continue on to minute levels of microscopic size.  This process is unique to asbestos and is why airborne asbestos is such a problem.

Asbestos fibres can become so small that they remain airborne longer and pass undetected by the respiratory dust defences. These microscopic fibres may become inhaled into the lungs. Once in the lungs, these fibres remain within the body and may cause significant health problems.

The occupations highest at risk from this deadly mineral are building contractors. Trades highest at risk include:

  • General maintenance staff
  • Electricians, plumbers and gas fitters
  • Painters, decorators, joiners and plasterers
  • Demolition and construction workers
  • Roofing contractors
  • Heating, ventilation and telecommunication engineers
  • Fire and burglar alarm installers
  • Architects and building surveyors
  • Shop fitters

Asbestos Awareness

Although these trades are thought to be in the highest risk category, there is still a significant risk to everyday occupants of buildings.

This risk comes from the fact it has been estimated that between 1.5 million to 2 million industrial / commercial buildings still contain asbestos.

Additionally it is estimated that approximately 2.4 million domestic premises also contain asbestos!

How do you prevent asbestos becoming an issue as an employer?

 Answer: Asbestos Awareness Training.

Whether you bake bread, work in an office or refurbish buildings for a living, asbestos should be top of the agenda for any employer.

 The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states:

 “Every employer must ensure that any employee employed by that employer is given adequate information, instruction and training”

By law asbestos awareness training is required to be given to persons who are liable to disturb asbestos while carrying out their normal everyday work, or who may influence how work is carried out.

The purpose of this training is to ensure awareness amongst those that could potentially come into contact with asbestos containing materials during their everyday work activities.

Asbestos awareness training is designed to promote sufficient awareness and reduce ‘accidental disturbance’ followed by ‘exposure to airborne asbestos fibre’.

Asbestos awareness training should include:

  • What is asbestos
  • Where was it used
  • What products contain asbestos
  • Where was it used?
  • Why is it hazardous
  • What health effects are attributed to asbestos?
  • Who is at risk?
  • Emergency procedures
  • Overview asbestos regulations / management

Further information on asbestos awareness training can be found on our asbestos awareness training page.

If you require help with any of the above or you would like to book an asbestos awareness training course, please contact us today!

Neil Munro

I work in a dual role at Acorn Analytical Services focused primarily on growing and leading the business from our Northampton office base. My focus is on overseeing all sales, marketing and financial activities from Northampton. I assist clients with high-level asbestos management strategies and training. Together with Ian Stone I host our weekly podcast – Asbestos Knowledge Empire and I'm Co-author of Asbestos The Dark Arts and Fear and Loathing of Health and Safety.

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