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Are we Asbestos aware?

By Leon Brimble – SMAS Worksafe Assessor

Obviously we’re not. Unbelievably, asbestos is still being used in today’s world, especially in Russia, Asia and parts of the United States, therefore potentially causing harm to future generations. It is totally banned in 55 countries. Why? Because it is the biggest cause of occupational cancer in the world. More than 2,600 people are diagnosed with Mesothelioma, (the type of cancer related to asbestos exposure) the condition each year in the UK.

The Legal Bit

Asbestos surveys are a legal requirement in most circumstances, so occupying or working in a building built before 2000 without one, could be breaking the law.

Mesothelioma in the UK

The United Kingdom has one of the highest rates of mesothelioma in the world. Why? The government permitted the use of asbestos long after other countries banned it.

Who is at Risk?

Construction workers, Shipbuilders, carpenters, plumbers and electricians. Why? Because their work will take them into areas where Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) are likely to be. It’s difficult to state how many people have died from asbestos-related diseases since 2000.

Exposure

What do we know? Asbestos is still around us, even 20 years after it was finally banned in the UK.  It is in hundreds, thousands of buildings built before 2000 and more recently, there has been concerns raised over the scale of asbestos in both primary and secondary schools.

What should we do as Employers?

Regulation 4 of the Control of Asbestos regulations 2012, places responsibilities on the Dutyholder to ensure that a suitable and sufficient assessment is carried out as to whether asbestos is or is liable to be present in the work premises.

Who is the Dutyholder?

In most circumstances, the Dutyholder is the owner-occupier/employer who is responsible for the maintenance of the premises.

How can you comply as the Dutyholder?

  1. Appoint a responsible person to properly manage Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) within the premises. This individual should have the competency and resources so they can carry out their duties of managing ACMs.
  2. Determining whether the premises has ACMs and where they are located or likely to be (not all ACMs are visible, they can be hidden by various barriers). This is usually carried out by an expert in the field, in the form of a survey.
  3. If it is not clear that ACMs are present, then the Dutyholder should presume that they are present and treat those areas accordingly. Set up a register to record the findings of the survey and maintain it so that visitors/contractors have current information.
  4. Use the register to help carry out risk assessments. (Who would be harmed? What is the likelihood that the asbestos fibers would be released from these materials?

Management Plan

Once you have all the relevant information you require for ACMs on the premises, you should develop a Management Plan to help you make decisions on how to deal with each ACM:

  • Leave alone and manage ACM.
  • Encapsulate or Enclose.
  • Repair or Remove the ACM.

Construct your plan to include timelines, resources, responsibilities and actions that could include:

  • Location and condition of ACMs.
  • Actions for dealing with ACMs and the priority status.
  • Timescales for dealing with the ACMs.
  • Resources required (internal, external).
  • Permit to Work.
  • Do your employees require training? (Asbestos awareness, non-licensed).
  • Individual or group responsibilities.
  • Monitoring strategy.
  • Review programme.
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