CAWR 2012 (Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations) Regulation 5, states that any employer of people who are due to work with asbestos has an obligation to identify any asbestos type that may be present. Once surveys have been conducted, all subsequent works are based on the findings contained therein.
These processes are strictly controlled and closely monitored and in the UK, all asbestos laboratories must be UKAS accredited to ISO 17025, an international standard for laboratories. UKAS regularly undertake audits to ensure that all procedures are accurate and quality is constantly maintained.
In accordance with the HSE guidelines, the first step in the process is to undertake visual examination of the sample using fume cabinets. After preliminary observations are made, the sample is examined using a low powered stereo microscope. This allows for a more comprehensive and exhaustive search of the sample. Probing the sample in this way enables the analyst to make a tentative identification of fibre types present.
Fibres are then mounted in an appropriate refractive index liquid which is selected to match the most likely asbestos type based upon previous observations. Using polarised light microscopy with magnifications above x80, the fibre can be identified as one of the six regulated asbestos types based on their unique optical properties. If this procedure is undertaken and no asbestos is identified, additional searches on random sub-samples are conducted.
Laboratories involved in this work are subject to extensive regulation, legislation and quality control, including participation in the AIMS quality control scheme administered by the HSE. This scheme is a statutory requirement of UKAS accreditation. Each individual analystâ€™s accuracy is monitored through daily re-checking of samples. All equipment and materials are regularly checked for contamination and microscopes re-aligned and calibrated.
The operational demands and pressures on analysts require a unique skill set and personality. All analysts are required to attain a BOHS P401 qualification, and should have the ability to work methodically under pressure, maintain composure and focus and constantly demonstrate an exceptional work ethic.
It is vital that every laboratory ensures their workers adhere to the HSE regulations with relation to the maximum number of samples that can be analysed within a 24 hour period. Monitoring such activity prevents performance being impeded through an excessively high workload, and in this situation, quality really does surpass quantity.
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