Is asbestos an issue for employers today, even a decade after regulations tightened? The answer, shockingly, remains a resounding yes. It’s easy to dismiss asbestos as a problem of the past, but the reality is that the spectre of asbestos still haunts many workplaces in the UK in 2023.
Asbestos – A Lingering Threat
Even in 2023, a significant number of people in the UK are astounded to learn that asbestos is an issue that hasn’t been entirely eradicated. Despite the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 being in force for over a decade, the danger persists.
The latest data from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) paints a grim picture. Currently, there are around 4,759 deaths annually due to various asbestos-related diseases. This figure has increased since 2013, and alarmingly, it is still expected to rise further! So, if you find yourself asking “is asbestos an issue?” – it certainly is!
Understanding the Risk – Why is Asbestos an Issue?
The problem with asbestos arises when it’s disturbed or damaged. Asbestos, if undisturbed and in good condition, isn’t a hazard. However, once disturbed, tiny strands of asbestos can split into microscopic fibres that become airborne and easily inhaled. These microscopic fibres bypass the body’s respiratory defenses and lodge themselves in the lungs, causing a variety of severe health conditions.
Asbestos fibres’ ability to split into microscopic strands and become airborne is a unique property of asbestos. This, combined with the serious health risks it poses, is why asbestos is still a significant issue that employers need to address.
The Deadly Legacy of Asbestos
The materials that contain asbestos have been widely used in a variety of industries, making it a pervasive issue. Asbestos has been found in insulation materials, floor tiles, and even textured paints. Its widespread use and longevity mean that asbestos can be found in older buildings and materials, making its removal a complex and hazardous task.
Who is at Risk?
The people at the highest risk from asbestos exposure are those who work with materials that might contain asbestos. These occupations include:
- General maintenance staff
- Electricians, plumbers, and gas fitters
- Painters, decorators, joiners, and plasterers
- Construction and demolition workers
- Roofing contractors
- Heating, ventilation, and telecommunication engineers
- Fire and burglar alarm installers
- Architects and building surveyors
While these trades face the highest risk, is asbestos an issue for the everyday occupants of buildings? Yes, because it’s estimated that between 1.5 million to 2 million commercial and industrial buildings in the UK still contain asbestos. Shockingly, even domestic premises are not safe, with an estimated 2.4 million homes suspected to contain asbestos.
The Role of Employers – Preventing Asbestos Exposure
The question of “is asbestos an issue for employers?” is unequivocally answered with a yes. As an employer in the UK, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your workers are safe from asbestos exposure.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states that
“Every employer must ensure that any employee employed by that employer is given adequate information, instruction and training”
The goal of such training is to prevent accidental disturbance and subsequent exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.
Asbestos Awareness Training should cover
- Understanding what asbestos is
- Identifying common uses and products that contain asbestos
- Recognising the hazards associated with asbestos
- Knowledge of health effects attributed to asbestos
- Recognising who is at risk
- Understanding emergency procedures
- Overview of asbestos regulations and management
Taking a proactive approach to asbestos awareness training can drastically reduce the risk and answer the pressing question – “is asbestos an issue that can be managed effectively?”
Asbestos Awareness – Making a Change
Awareness is the first step towards creating a safer working environment. Regular asbestos training is an effective way to promote awareness and maintain safety standards in the workplace.
We provide comprehensive UKATA asbestos awareness training to equip workers with the necessary knowledge and skills to handle and manage asbestos-related risks safely. If you need assistance or wish to book a training course, please contact us today. Let’s take proactive steps together to make sure that the question “Is asbestos an issue?” is something future generations won’t have to ask.