It is important that businesses understand their obligations when it comes to dealing with asbestos, its detection, control, and removal. As this week is Global Asbestos Awareness Week, we would like to remind all organisations of their responsibility to manage asbestos safely. If any of work is conducted in an environment that contains, or has the potential to contain, asbestos materials organisations have a duty to commission an asbestos report and put effective controls, such as risk assessments, in place to protect workers.
Asbestos reports should only be conducted by a competent contractor who will have a licence issued by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE).
If a building was constructed, or has had refurbishment work undertaken, prior to the year 2000 there is likely to be asbestos materials present. Asbestos might be present in more obvious locations such as an asbestos cement roof or lagging on boilers and pipes, but it can also be in less obvious places such as in insulated panels, in partition walls and in coatings on ceilings, walls, beams and columns, including textured decorative coatings such as Artex. Asbestos in all these situations requires the same treatment through a licenced asbestos contractor that can provide competent advice and undertake any work. If there is not an asbestos report in place but it is believed that there could be asbestos in the environment, an organisation should take the appropriate precautions for a situation with the highest risk.
Asbestos is responsible for deaths of 5000 workers annually with around 20 tradesmen losing their lives each week due to past exposure. Asbestos is released into the air as fibres and although the effects of these fibres may not be immediately apparent, once inhaled, they can cause serious diseases with smokers being at a higher risk than non-smokers.
The HSE provides advice to managers and sole traders in its “asbestos essentials.” Earlier this year the HSE, launched a new campaign under its “Work Right website; “Asbestos & you” raises awareness and offers various support tools to businesses across the UK with links to legislation, guidance, and training for asbestos. Please find the links below:
HSE – Asbestos – The HSE Website for Asbestos
HSE – Asbestos essentials – a0.pdf (hse.gov.uk) – The HSE Guide a0 – Asbestos essentials
Asbestos & You – Work Right to keep Britain safe – Work Right! Asbestos & you campaign