Asbestos – Have the awareness to protect your health now

Asbestos – Have the awareness to protect your health now

  • Date: Wednesday 28th April 2021
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Why is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos still kills around 5000 workers each year, which is significantly more than the number of people killed on the road. Around 20 tradesmen die a week as a result of past exposure and unfortunately, despite the use, supply, storage and manufacturing of asbestos products being banned in the UK in 1999, asbestos is not  problem of the past and we must all remain aware of the dangers that it presents.

Asbestos for use in material or product is virtually indestructible, as well as being fire resistant, a thermal insulator, an audio insulator and resistant to acids or alkalis (depending on the type of asbestos). Unfortunately for humans this means that when materials containing asbestos are disturbed, fibres are released into the air and when inhaled can cause serious diseases because the body is unable to destroy the fibres.

These diseases will not affect you immediately, and whilst it is highly unlikely that a single fibre will kill you, a single, large exposure could. Diseases often take a long time to develop, with a latency period of 15-60 years, and once diagnosed it is often too late to do anything. It is for this reason that it is so vital to protect your health now. Asbestos can cause the following serious and fatal diseases:

  • Mesothelioma
  • Asbestos-related lung cancer
  • Asbestosis
  • Pleural thickening

Where can you find asbestos?

Asbestos can be found in any industrial or residential building built or refurbished before the year 2000 and because of its properties can be found in the majority of common building materials. Due to its prevalence at the time, the highest concentration of asbestos materials used in the UK was post-World War II to rebuild war-damaged properties and rapidly provide housing to cope with the ‘baby boom’ that followed. The asbestos content of products has the potential to vary greatly due to the way in which it was mixed and combined with other components to materials. Some materials, such as thermal insulation lagging, could have anything between 6-85% asbestos content!

Typical materials that contain asbestos include:

  • Loose ‘fill’ in ceiling, floor or wall cavities*
  • Lagging*
  • Sprayed coatings*
  • Asbestos insulating board (AIB) (*)
  • Floor tiles, textiles and composites
  • Textured coatings
  • Asbestos cement products

Whilst all asbestos containing materials (ACMs) have the potential to cause harm if disturbed or damaged, there are some that have a higher potential to release fibres. Because of this, products are separated into two work categories: licensed and non-licensed. Materials marked with an * above are licensed products and have the most robust controls in place for removal, including notification to the HSE. On occasions, non-licensed materials will require notification to the HSE if they are above exposure control limits or in such a state of degradation that there is an increased level of fibre release and therefore a higher risk of inhalation. AIB marked (*) is the most likely example of this, but it can happen in other materials.

Am I at risk and when?

Workers involved in refurbishment, maintenance and similar trades could be a risk of exposure to asbestos during their work, this includes, but not limited to:

  • Demolition workers
  • Carpenters, joiners, plumbers, gas fitters and electricians
  • Painters and decorators, plasterers and alarm installers
  • Construction workers, shop fitters and cable layers
  • General maintenance staff

Workers will be most at risk when working on an unfamiliar site built or refurbished before 2000 where:

  • ACMs have not been identified
  • Information of ACMs has not been passed on
  • No risk assessment(s) is in place
  • Workers don’t know how to recognise and work safely with asbestos
  • Workers have not had appropriate information, instruction and training in relation to asbestos

Asbestos training

Amongst the duties within the Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations 2012, every employer must ensure that anyone who is liable to disturb asbestos during their normal work, or supervises those employees, gets the correct level of information, instruction and training so that they can work safely and competently without risk to themselves or other. This is a legal duty on employers as set out in Regulation 10. There are three main levels, and these relate to asbestos awareness, non-licensable work, and licensable work. It is important that the correct level of training is selected for employees and understand that attending training alone does not make someone competent; it is the combination with skills, knowledge and experience.

Asbestos Awareness training is the initial level of training required for persons and is intended to give them the information they need to avoid work that may disturb asbestos during their normal during their normal work in which they could disturb the fabric of a building or item that might contain asbestos. It does not prepare persons to carry out work with ACMs. If a worker is planning to carry out work that will disturb ACMs then further information, instruction and training is required.

Amongst other key pieces of information, Asbestos Awareness training will cover the properties of asbestos and its effect on health, types or products and materials likely to contain asbestos, the importance of preventative controls to minimise exposure, safe working practices, protective equipment and emergency procedures.

SSG have a collection of UKATA accredited tutors that can provide excellent Asbestos Awareness and Non-Licensed Asbestos training packages to support you and your workforce. Contact our Customer Service and Sales team today to book your course.

Source: David Wright

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