Even though asbestos was a building material of the last century and awareness has been raised of its danger to workers, it still haunts us every day. There are still many schools, office buildings, homes and hospitals that have asbestos within the building and when it becomes damaged it can be a hazard to anyone in the vicinity.
As a result there are still plenty of construction projects available for tender from building owners who are trying to rid their structures of the lethal substance. For labourers wanting a quick buck and landlords wanting to save a bob or two, it can be tempting to team up and get the job done without the proper precautions. Our advice to anyone thinking of doing this, whether property owner or labourer is: Don't.
According to the Health and Safety Executive, there are 5000 deaths attributed to asbestos exposure every single year. The worst thing about exposure to asbestos and the health implications of being exposed is that symptoms can take decades to surface and the majority of cases involve cancer of the lungs or lining of the lungs.
Most asbestos exposure comes from being unaware of the material's characteristics, therefore not recognising it and treating it accordingly. Not having the correct protective clothing can also be a risk.
As a contractor, employer, labourer or facilities manager, you have a duty of care to your employees, colleagues, customers and yourself to be asbestos aware. You should know the risks, how to minimise risks of asbestos exposure and how to protect the general public from harm. If you are likely to come into contact with asbestos in your daily work, but tend to work for different businesses throughout the year, then you'd be wise to invest in your own training and even an asbestos licence to show potential employers that you've taken responsibility for your own wellbeing, but also to be sure that even if you are not provided with proper training you can still work safely. If you're an employer, download the HSE asbestos essentials sheet.
Ideally asbestos awareness training or asbestos refresher training should be offered to all new employees and should be offered to permanent employees once a year. Training is inexpensive and can be taken as a group or as an individual and can double up as team building or working towards a professional development or training needs analysis plan. Workshops only tend to last half a day, so won't involve much disruption to work schedules at all. Asbestos training is relevant for any trades that are likely to cut holes in walls, disturb pipes or roof tiles, or work on building sites. This includes; plumbers, electricians, surveyors, shop fitters, telephone installers, joiners, caretakers and their supervisors and managers.
If you would like to learn more about handling asbestos safely, make sure you contact our advisors who'll be happy to book you onto a half day course.