As part of ACCL’s ongoing Health and Safety Awareness Programme, we have recently undertaken training on how to identify the risks of asbestos, as well as how to deal with any situation where working with asbestos has been identified as a risk.
EU Directive: Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
As a result of the European Commission’s view that the UK had not fully implemented the EU Directive on exposure to Asbestos (Directive 2000/148/EC), the newly updated Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 came into force on 6 April 2012. Ultimately the directive stated that it is the responsibility of whoever has control of a building to convey the risks to the contractor through a survey or management plan. Any works involving asbestos need to be notified to the relevant enforcing authority and brief written records need to be kept.
The Direct implication to ACCL was that we needed to undergo the training on how to deal with situations where any works we were completing involved the risk of asbestos.
Some Facts about Asbestos
Asbestos was extensively used as a building material for a variety of purposes in the UK from the 1950’s up until the mid-1980’s, being used mainly for fireproofing and insulation. Selling points at that time were that it is heat resistant up to 900˚C and doesn’t burn, it’s a non-conductor of electricity and is cheap and easy to use. Although its use was banned in 1999 the chances are that it could be present in any building built or refurbished before 2000, residential or commercial. It is estimated that there is somewhere in the region of 6 million tonnes of asbestos still present in UK buildings.
Understanding the Risks
Inhalation of the fibres can cause serious damage to the human body. The 4 main concerns being:
• Mesothelioma (an incurable form of cancer)
• Lung cancer (which is nearly always fatal)
• Asbestosis (not always fatal but very debilitating) and
• Diffuse pleural thickening (not fatal)
Asbestos materials in good condition pose no threat, only becoming dangerous when the particles become airborne, you cannot see or smell asbestos fibres in the air and the effects can take between 5 and 50 years to show up. The problem with asbestos is that the fibres are sharp and strong and do not evaporate in the air or dissolve in water; they can remain suspended in the air for a long period of time and carried long distances. If these fibres are inhaled, they get stuck in the lung, and cannot be broken down by the body. It is the single biggest cause of work related deaths in the UK. It is estimated that around 3000 people die each year from asbestos related diseases, this is expected to reach 10,000 by 2020, by which time it will probably start to decline due to measures taken from the 1980’s onwards.
Asbestos and ACCL
As a result of our Training we now fully understand:
• What the risks are involved in dealing with the presence of Asbestos
• Procedures to be undertaken
• Clearance and checking off