Asbestos is the biggest occupational cancer killer in the world, claiming at least 107,000 lives every year worldwide – probably many, many more. In Britain alone around 5,000 people die every year, from work-related asbestos exposure. And, in the UK any commercial or domestic premises built before November 1999 may contain Asbestos Containing Materials. (ACM’s).
Asbestos, which is undamaged and undisturbed will not cause harm, however should the asbestos material (ACM) be disturbed accidently or through work carried out on it, tiny fibres are released into the air and anyone in the vicinity is at risk of breathing them into their lungs. This can result in serious respiratory illness which in many cases results in chronic lung problems, severe suffering and often an agonising death.
Just imagine an electrician, drilling into a textured ceiling to replace a light fitting. The miniscule fibres escape from the material and are so small, you can’t see them with the naked eye. The electrician breathes in a number of fibres unknowing that he is playing Russian Roulette with his life. Twenty to thirty years later, he develops a cough that won’t go away and when medical tests are carried out it is discovered he has Asbestosis or Mesothelioma, both of which are life limiting, excruciating health conditions. This is devastating news for the electrician, his family, friends, workmates and anyone who knows him. He may have had training and thought ‘it won’t happen to me’, the training courses may not have been powerful enough to make him sit up and take notice, or he may not have been provided with training at all.
Training in asbestos awareness is not a ‘tick a box’ exercise, it should be delivered by a qualified and experienced tutor, who lets the candidates know that asbestos kills and here is what you need to know in order to keep yourself and others safe from the harmful affects of exposure.
The Health and Safety at Work (NI) Order 1978 places a legal duty on employers to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all of his employees. The duty includes ‘a safe place of work’ and ‘information, instruction and training’.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work (NI) Regulations 2000, is about employers carrying out risk assessments of reasonably foreseeable risks and to put in place controls to remove the risk or to reduce it so far as is reasonably practicable.
The use of Asbestos Containing Materials (ACM’s) was prohibited in November 1999. It is therefore reasonably foreseeable that buildings built before then may expose workers and others to the dangers associated with this deadly material. The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states that training is mandatory for anyone liable to be exposed to asbestos fibres at work.
The Regulations also place a duty of those who manage or are in control of; non-domestic premises to ‘manage asbestos’ in their premises. That means they have to identify where asbestos materials, or presumed asbestos materials are situated and the condition of the material. They must ensure an inspection regime is carried out to monitor the condition of the material. A record must be kept of the findings and this information must be given to anyone who may carry out work on the premises so that a risk assessment of anyone who could be exposed to fibres from materials are identified and the risk controlled.
Providing asbestos awareness training to workers whose working activity may disturb or damage ACMs is mandatory. This education must include where ACMs can be found in the building, plant or equipment, how to work safely around them and how to protect themselves and others from dust. It is also important to ensure that any employees of contractors have also received asbestos awareness training, if their activities while working on your premises may disturb ACMs. Workers and contractors must be empowered to stop work if they believe that material, they encounter may be an ACM. They need Asbestos Awareness training to enable them to identify if asbestos materials may be present where they are working. The training should be delivered by a highly qualified, competent and experienced instructor. Don’t be afraid to ask about the qualifications of the tutor. Don’t waste your training budget on courses that don’t meet your specific requirements.
This training course, if delivered to the highest standard should provide the attendees with the knowledge and awareness to take appropriate precautions to keep themselves and others safe from exposure to disturbed asbestos fibres. They may reflect on the increased risk for those who smoke and may decide to take steps to give up smoking, however, you as an employer will have met your duty to reduce the risks associated with asbestos by providing excellent information, instruction and training and that is ‘training accomplished’.
We at NPTNI would be delighted to put you in touch with excellent Asbestos Safety Trainers in order to keep yourself, your workforce and others safe from these deadly fibres. If we can save one life by providing the right training, then bring it on!
© 2021 Nicola Penman. All rights reserved.