Asbestos management – do you know your dos and don’ts?
- Date: Wednesday 6th April 2016
With Global Asbestos Awareness Week underway, Sarah Leake, consultant at Southalls health and safety consultants, explores some of the dos and don’ts of effective asbestos management.
Currently, 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos in the workplace.
As the biggest occupational disease risk to construction workers, the frequent misunderstandings surrounding asbestos management continue to be at the forefront of industry discussion, and for good reason.
Campaigns such as the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation’s (ADAO) Global Asbestos Awareness Week and IOSH’s No Time To Lose initiative are helping to raise awareness of carcinogenic exposure issues, but asbestos failings and breaches of health and safety law continue to be reported on a regular basis, with a large proportion attributable to employers’ misunderstanding of their asbestos responsibilities.
Simply identifying where asbestos is present is not enough to comply with regulations. A detailed and regularly updated management plan is required to ensure duty holders are protecting those working on or in the premises, and to effectively control any works that are likely to affect asbestos.
From a lack of understanding regarding building investigations through to the absence of staff training, there are a number of areas that must be addressed for asbestos to be managed effectively.
Conduct investigations prior to building work commencing
Carry out refurbishment and demolition surveys before beginning any intrusive building work. This will identify any hidden asbestos within the fabric of the property that may not have been identified during a management survey and which could be disturbed, leading to potential exposure.
Ensure maintenance workers are controlled in identified asbestos areas
Always ensure that all contractors are asbestos awareness trained before they are allowed access to the property and prior to building work commencing, by checking their method statements.
Operate a Permit to Work system
After confirming a contractor’s asbestos awareness training, ensure appropriate controls are put in place by operating a Permit to Work system before any work is undertaken.
Know your differences
If asbestos containing materials are to be worked on or removed, make sure this process is correctly identified as either licensable work, notifiable non licensed work or non licensed work.
Allow any maintenance staff to be uninformed
Comprehensive information must be communicated to all employees, contractors and maintenance staff on where asbestos is present before they carry out any work to prevent accidental disturbance.
Commence any work without investigations
Whether it is drilling into a wall or knocking one down, no intrusive work into the fabric of the building should take place before investigations into asbestos have been conducted.
Forget areas of limited access
Areas of limited access and those not assessed during a management survey are often neglected, but it is an employer’s legal responsibility to presume they contain asbestos unless otherwise proven, making it essential that they are not overlooked.
Neglect to update asbestos plans and registers
All asbestos management plans and registers of asbestos-containing materials should be periodically reviewed, with a visual inspection where possible. Any changes to the condition of the asbestos or likelihood for disturbance should be addressed through management controls.
By demystifying asbestos management and adopting these measures, it is possible to protect the welfare of employees and contractors, and raise awareness not only of the dangers of asbestos but how to effectively manage it too.