Asbestos in the Workplace

Despite being a banned substance, asbestos is a pervasive risk to anyone who may carry out work in any building built before the year 2000 – including factories, houses, hospitals, schools and more.

Employers must make sure that any worker who may be in the position to disturb asbestos is protected through the use of risk assessments, information, instruction and training.

So, if you’re in charge of a job working in a building that was built or refurbished before the year 2000, what do you need to do?

Find out if asbestos is present

asbestos roofing tilesThose identified as the ‘duty holder’ (those with primary responsibility for a building or any responsibility for maintenance for a building) have legal duty to manage the risks from asbestos. This includes ensuring there is a suitable and sufficient risk assessment to determine if there is, or there is likely to be, asbestos present in the workplace. Whilst also ensuring that information is recorded and readily available.

An asbestos register may be available detailing all ACMs (asbestos containing materials) alternatively inspections may be required. During inspections, it must be presumed that materials contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence to suggest otherwise.

Asbestos materials can be commonly found in:

  • Ceiling tiles
  • Cement products such as flat or corrugated sheets
  • Bitumen roofing materials
  • Vinyl and thermoplastic floor tiles
  • Moulded or preformed lagging such as thermal insulation of pipes and boilers

If asbestos is present, works must be planned to avoid disturbing the asbestos, operatives must be provided with appropriate training; this includes information on the location of the asbestos, any PPE required, and procedures required such as decontamination of equipment. To ensure works are conducted in accordance with plans, method sheets or safe working procedures should be created. Requirements of which are determined within an asbestos risk assessment.

How to carry out an asbestos risk assessment

List of what asbestos risk assessments should includeAn asbestos risk assessment must be carried out by a competent person in the early planning stages to ensure that works will be conducted in a way which will avoid disturbance of any asbestos present and allow sufficient time to implement controls.

The risk assessment must be specific to the works being conducted and include:

  • the type and quantity of the asbestos, i.e., serpentine (chrysotile – white) etc.
  • the expected exposure levels.
  • the required controls, i.e., RPE, enclosures, provision of sufficient ventilation.
  • any procedures, i.e., decontamination of clothing/equipment.
  • waste management i.e., requirement for a licenced waste contractor.
  • Emergency procedures, i.e., locking off and ventilation periods after release.

What type of asbestos training is needed?

projector and table chairs on a keyboardThere are three different types of asbestos training, each vary in the level of information, instruction and training provided. The level required depends on the activities taking place as identified in the risk assessment and whether work will avoid disturbance or require disturbance.

In all cases asbestos awareness training is required. This type of training provides information and instruction to operatives and supervisors to avoid work that may contain asbestos. Learners will know:

  • The different types of asbestos, uses and common places of asbestos containing materials (ACMs).
  • The effects of asbestos on health, including increased risk of lung cancer for those who smoke.
  • How to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos.

The final two types are required where works will knowingly disturb ACMs:

  • Non-licensable work or NNLW (Notifiable non-licenced work) with asbestos which is defined in the HSE’s approved code of practice (ACOP). Whether the work is NNLW depends on the type of work conducted, the type of material and its condition. All of which are identified through an asbestos risk assessment. This training level will cover things such as how to make suitable and sufficient assessments about the risk of exposure to asbestos, along with safe work practices, emergency, and waste handling procedures.
  • Licensable work with asbestos examples includes work that requires complete removal of damaged material containing asbestos or work with/cleaning up large quantities of ACM dust. This training level provides learners with in-depth knowledge and awareness of asbestos and will include modules such as controlled stripping techniques, cleaning and clearance air techniques.

How can WA Management help?

WA Management offer bespoke risk assessments for any activities that may expose your workers to asbestos, complete with recommended controls to mitigate any negative effects. We also provide both in-person and online asbestos awareness training options. Get in touch to learn more!

Asbestos Awareness and Control of Hazardous Substances (COSHH) training courses are essential tools in protecting your workers from the effects of harmful substances. Make sure you don’t miss out on our 10% off deal on these courses, available until the end of April. Simply enter the code ‘hazardous10’ at checkout to save!