In the United Kingdom Asbestos is the greatest cause of work-related deaths. When certain fibresare inhaled they cause potentially-deadly diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosisand diffuse pleural thickening. Asbestos account s for around 4000 deaths per year in the UKaccording to the Health and Safety Executive, so it’s important that at risk employers do their best toprotect their people.
While asbestos fibres can be found in the environment of Great Britain, it’s thought that the totalnumber of fibres inhaled has a big impact on the likelihood of contracting an asbestos-relateddisease. These diseases don’t always affect people immediately, but are more likely to occur later onin life.
There are ways of mitigating risk from asbestos, which is especially important when working
on a structure built before 2000, especially if an asbestos check has not been carried out orcommunicated with the team. Individuals are also more at risk when they have not receivedsufficient training on working safely with asbestos or deliberately disregard warnings, proceduresand precautions. It can be hard to know if you are working safely with asbestos, as the fibres can’tbe seen or smelt.
Asbestos waste should be double-bagged and clearly labelled as asbestos waste, and LocalAuthorities might be able to help you dispose of it safely, albeit with a charge. Alternatively youcould contact the Environment Agency (or SEPA in Scotland) and they should be able to help youdispose of the waste at a licensed tip.
When working with asbestos, protective equipment such as face masks should be worn, andasbestos waste should be cleared up regularly, to stop this hazardous substance building up. If abuilding or material is full of asbestos then try to avoid creating a lot of dust, by using power toolsfor example. Dust and debris should be cleared away using a Type H vacuum cleaner for hazardousmaterials, or even wet rags which can reduce the amount of dust and fibres in the air. Debris shouldnot be swept as this creates more dust.
Find out if asbestos-containing materials are present and plan any work around not disturbing thesematerials if this is possible. Anyone working with asbestos materials should be properly trainedand supervised. They should also be aware of whether the work needs to be carried out by a HSE-licensed contractor. Work should be fully explained, and appropriate equipment should be providedwhich is clean, functional and protects workers against the risks of asbestos.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 brings together three previous sets of regulations coveringworking with asbestos. It prohibit the importation, supply and use of asbestos, and uphold the bandon blue and brown asbestos introduced in 1985 and white asbestos in 1999. Second-hand use ofasbestos products is also banned, including using panels which have been covered with asbestos-containing substances. This only applies to new uses of asbestos; if existing materials containasbestos and are in good condition they can be left in place, checked and monitored.