There is evidence from archaeological records that asbestos has been used as far back as the Stone Age to reinforce moulded ceramic pots. At the end of the 19th century, however, it had entered into mainstream use – this time being used in architecture and industry. It had value in economic feasibility in many fields, so it was used a lot of the time. The asbestos industry took a major hit in the 1970s, though. It was found that it was a major health hazard, responsible for extremely insalubrious conditions like lung cancer, mesothelioma, and asbestosis, and many countries took steps to curtail the damage it left in its wake.
Of course, the UK was one of those countries. In 1985, the use of some asbestos materials was banned entirely, and the use of secondhand asbestos was banned fourteen years after in 1999. An elaborate law code was set up in 2006 and was reformulated in 2012, conferring the mandatory duty and responsibility of asbestos management in non-domestic buildings. Aptly put, the 2012 Control of Asbestos Regulations stated that the owners of these buildings had a “duty to manage” asbestos within their premises by being aware of its presence, making sure it does not deteriorate, and then eliminating it from the premises if it poses a risk. The responsible persons are also required to provide annual asbestos training to their workers. You can read more about the asbestos duty here.
Asbestos risk assessment
To protect employees and other people who frequent the premises, an asbestos risk assessment must be done. What is this exactly? It is a calculated procedure aimed at identifying the possible risks of asbestos on the premises and taking steps to reduce and eliminate them or safeguard those who frequently stay in the building. This process keeps your business code-compliant, safeguards you and your employees, and keeps you protected from prosecution by code-enforcers. This procedure is usually encapsulated in six steps;
- The first step is to complete a ‘sweep’ of the premises. This action would be imperative to ascertaining if there actually are asbestos particles on the premises. It would also identify the type of asbestos present (different kinds pose different threats), the amount of it present, and the state of it (this would consider if the asbestos on the building is in a “dormant” or “benign” phase and how likely it is to become a threat when disturbed), and the level of exposure you can expect.
- A risk level is established. In this phase, personnel would also be gauged according to risk factors so the executor of the exercise can know the people who are most at risk.
- A plan is drawn up. This plan would include steps taken to remove or reduce the risks. This plan would detail precautionary measures, decontamination procedures, the need for PPE, and details on how asbestos waste would be managed. It would also talk about emergency procedures to be followed when the “dormant” asbestos becomes a threat.
- The findings are recorded, and the personnel (your employees) are informed about the risk level and the precautions to be taken.
- The best plan that was initially drawn up should be implemented. Active steps should be taken to manage and prevent the proliferation of diseases caused by the material.
- This design should be reviewed regularly and consistently. It should also be modified and adjusted according to new developments.
Who is needed for this assessment?
The risk assessment procedure is a precarious job. The health of everyone within the building is dependent on the competency of whoever carries it out. Because of this, there are certain things to be expected of such a person. First and most importantly, the person must have suitable expertise, experience, knowledge and training on the subject. The person must also be able to understand the risks involved and make appropriate decisions based on their recognition of patterns. Since it would also be necessary to make estimates along the line, the person must be able to make hard, accurate estimates on what would be needed.
All work on asbestos is to be carried out by an independent contractor licensed by the HSE. There are jobs non-licensed professionals can do, though. According to the regulations put down by the UK government, non-licensed personnel can do work that is sporadic and of low intensity, work that can be done without exceeding the legal control limit, work that is a non-continuous maintenance task, and generally work that is objectively controlled in scope. Every other work should be left to the professionals.
Other things to consider
While gearing up for risk assessment and management of asbestos on the premises,
- You would need to dispose of the asbestos materials that have been removed properly, in accordance with the Hazardous Waste Regulations 2005
- Inform all employees of the happenings around the process
- Provide training to all personnel on the management of asbestos risk
- Provide PPE to personnel who are more at risk than others
The prosecution of errants who flout the 2012 regulations on asbestos management is taken very seriously. You could end up losing thousands, and if serious enough, your premises would be forced to shut down. There is a window for duty holders to efficiently manage asbestos issues if they cannot be removed totally. When there is no plan in place, business owners risk being fined up to ￡20,000 or facing up to 2 years in prison.
Benefits of efficient management of asbestos
Efficient management of asbestos is for the good of all parties involved. This 2016 study demonstrates the positive link between employee safety, job satisfaction, and turnover. When your employees feel safe enough to work in an environment without fear of developing lethal diseases along the line, they will feel more empowered to focus on their jobs. Another study carried out in 2007 explored the link between workplace safety and productivity. Effectively managing ACMs on your premises is one way to increase safety and inspire your employees. It is to the benefit of all involved.
We here at All About Asbestos run a tight asbestos remediation service that caters to all businesses and we also offer additional services, such as asbestos management and asbestos removal in Kent and the surrounding areas. If you would like to hire our service, feel free to visit our site or contact us at 01843 600765.