Asbestos is known as the silent killer and can still be found in our homes, workplaces, schools, public buildings and commercial properties across the UK.
Approximately 5000 people die every year in the UK from an asbestos related disease.
This figure is higher than the number of deaths on Britain’s roads!
More needs to be done to raise awareness and educate people on the dangers.
Tradesmen need to receive the correct training and know how to protect themselves and others where asbestos is concerned.
It is estimated that more than half a million commercial properties alone contain asbestos in some form or another throughout the UK.
So it is a problem in that many workers will come into contact with asbestos at some point.
This is where wearing the correct PPE (Personal protective equipment) and RPE (Respiratory protective equipment) is essential if asbestos is likely to become disturbed.
Employers must ensure that their workers are fully protected and have received adequate training if they are likely to be exposed to asbestos.
This will come in the form of asbestos awareness training so that workers are able to identify asbestos and are aware of the dangers.
However, if you are going to be working with asbestos containing materials on a regular basis then you will require more specialist training.
We have a duty to raise awareness
There are training providers such as Armco Asbestos Training who are specialists in training individuals and companies in asbestos awareness.
You should not undertake any work on asbestos unless you have been properly trained by a competent training provider.
Asbestos awareness training should be completed by anyone working on buildings built before the year 2000 who might disturb asbestos as part of their work.
The course should also be taken by anyone supervising any demolition or refurbishment work.
Infact, anyone working in the refurbishment or maintenance trades that may come into close contact with asbestos containing materials should have asbestos awareness training.
It’s very important to be aware of the risks, even if you are not going to be working directly with asbestos.
However, if you are specifically going to be working with asbestos containing materials, you will need a higher level of training.
This will depend on whether the work to be carried out is non-licensed, notifiable non-licensed or licensed.
The highest level of training will be required for any licensed asbestos removal work.
Wearing the correct Respiratory equipment
It is vital that the correct respiratory equipment is worn when dealing with asbestos that has been disturbed.
This is because asbestos is extremely dangerous when it’s fibers become airbourne.
Asbestos causes respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma, so wearing adequate RPE is essential.
Wearing a regular dust mask from a DIY store is not sufficient.
A proper respirator needs to be worn, and it also needs to be worn properly.
You must ensure that the mask fits around the nose and mouth leaving no gaps.
There are various types of RPE on the market, and the one you will require will very much depend on the job involved.
For example, there are disposable respirators, semi disposable and half mask which are fine for brief exposure to asbestos.
But if working in asbestos removal for any long period of time, a non disposable mask must be worn.
These masks will only be worn by specialist removal contractors.
Wearing the correct PPE clothing
As well as wearing the correct RPE, it is also essential that you make sure you are wearing adequate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment).
If working with asbestos, you must wear disposable clothing such as overalls and gloves.
If you don’t, then the asbestos fibers will contaminate your clothes and become airbourne, posing a hazard to yourself and others.
Once worn, the clothing must be disposed of in the correct way.
You cannot dispose of disposable asbestos clothing with regular household waste.
It must be wrapped in bags and labelled as containing asbestos before disposing of at a licensed asbestos disposal facility.
You should contact your local council for details of your local disposal site.
For more useful information on asbestos awareness training and wearing the correct RPE and PPE, please visit the HSE website.
Duty holders and employers have a legal responsibility to manage asbestos in their building so as not to put employees at risk. Contact our Armco office for asbestos management and refurbishment/ demolition surveys on 0161 763 3727 or by visiting http://www.armco.org.uk/