Jon Clements, Commercial Director of Ensafe Consultants, shares industry insight and advice vital for facilities managers who need to ensure they are asbestos aware …
Asbestos – The Facts
Following the asbestos ban in this country in 2000 it is illegal to use asbestos in the refurbishment or construction of any premises. However, thousands of tonnes of asbestos was used in the past, which means a lot of it is still in situ.
There are three main types of asbestos, which can still currently be found in numerous commercial premises including:
These are commonly referred to respectively as blue, brown and white asbestos.
It’s essential to manage asbestos because breathing in air containing asbestos fibres can lead to asbestos-related diseases including cancers of the chest lining and lungs. Asbestos only becomes a risk to health, however if asbestos fibres are released into the air and inhaled.
It is estimated exposure to asbestos leads to the death of 5000 workers every year in the UK!
Those with legal or maintenance responsibility on the front line within all commercial buildings including hospitals, care homes, commercial/industrial sites and educational establishments are at particular risk from potential exposure to asbestos, and with the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) recently handing out heavy fines for breaches, it is pivotal professionals are aware of asbestos legislation and training guidelines.
Legislation is in place throughout the UK yet still thousands of people a year are dying due to exposure to this material and that curve is going up - people are still being exposed to asbestos despite it finally being banned in this country in the year 2000. There are thousands of tonnes of asbestos unaccounted for in the UK, in building
materials still within premises that haven’t been surveyed or yet still being disturbed through lack of understanding or legally required training. Workers who carry out building maintenance and repairs within commercial properties are at a higher risk, so it is critical facilities and building managers within all sectors are aware of the relevant legislation relating to asbestos and legislation that affects asbestos in the workplace.
Who is The Duty Holder
The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2012) requires any person responsible for, or owner of a commercial property (“The Duty Holder”) constructed before the year 2000 to be able to identify where asbestos could be within the building and ensure it remains undisturbed. Facilities and building managers have a ‘duty to manage’ any asbestos within the building where they oversee operations.
Organisations that sample and analyse asbestos should be accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and licenced asbestos specialists should always be enlisted to undertake any remediation/removal of asbestos.
Laboratories being utilised for asbestos testing should be UKAS (ISO 17025) accredited and types of asbestos can be identified using current techniques including Polarising Light Microscopy and dispersion staining.
Your Legal ‘Duty’
At Ensafe Consultants the main objective is to form strong and lasting working partnerships with organisations and their facilities and building managers, to explain the legal process, review what’s in place to safeguard their workforce and supply chain so that they are fully aware of the dangers of asbestos containing material. Ensafe will also assist those organisations to reach and maintain compliance with The Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR 2012).
In short, as a duty holder, the landlord or building manager needs to:
- Identify if asbestos is present
- Create a record of type, location and condition of the asbestos
- Assess the risk of anyone being exposed to the asbestos
- Prepare a plan tackling how to manage risks which must be actioned and monitored
- Share recorded information with any person who may encounter the asbestos or need to disturb the fabric of the building
The asbestos survey is also extremely important in providing vital information and guidance as to whether all located asbestos is in a safe and manageable condition or in need of remediation to ensure it is safe.
If a building/area within a building is undergoing improvement/renovation works or being demolished, a more in-depth survey must be undertaken before any works begin.
Those with the Duty to Manage asbestos must ensure anyone who may disturb asbestos during their normal work, or who 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 others. Recognised industry asbestos courses ensure organisations meet all the necessary regulatory requirements and remain legally compliant.
There are a range of asbestos training courses and associated qualifications available. These include general asbestos awareness courses approved by the United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) and specific asbestos occupational hygiene courses approved by the British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) - including P402/03/04/05, which provide a raft of technical asbestos qualifications, asbestos awareness and duty to manage asbestos qualifications.
Asbestos awareness training is vital – it is helping to save lives.
So, what are the 5 Easy Steps to achieve and maintain Asbestos Compliance?
1. Review procedures to ensure they are current and compliant
2. Locate any asbestos containing materials within the building by conducting an asbestos survey
3. Compile a register of materials and carry out any highlighted remedial actions
4. Review your maintenance practices and educate your workforce via recognised training
5. Put all/any control measures in place to safeguard individuals and regularly check the asbestos condition, keeping your asbestos register up to date
Asbestos is an extremely emotive subject, and rightly so, but with knowledge, training and the correct procedures in place you can ensure you are fulfilling your Duty to Manage and protecting your workforce from potential harm.