The Importance of Asbestos Management

As reported on the HSE website, an asbestos management company director has been jailed for 10 months after failures to protect workers from asbestos exposure during a major refurbishment project on a department store after concerns had been raised by the workers on the project, who believed they were at risk.

The company were well aware of the dangers of asbestos and had a wealth of knowledge on the risks associated with asbestos exposure; but still failed to work within the law.

The director was found to have ‘cut corners’ deliberately, and some of the documentation was found to be fraudulent/falsified; they were found to be in breach of Section 2(1) and 3(1) of The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974.

In addition to the imprisonment of the Director, the company was also fined £100,000 and the company Contracts Manager is awaiting sentencing for the same breaches.

Why is Asbestos dangerous?

When the smallest sized fibres are breathed in, there is a risk of developing a fatal disease which usually affects the lungs. These diseases take a long time to develop, usually between 15 and 60 years so no immediate effects are noticed should fibres be inhaled. In some cases, it may not be the exposed worker who suffers ill effects. Workers being exposed to asbestos may bring it home to their families on their clothes and on their person, which exposes the others in the household to the hazard.

How could this affect your business?

There is a legal duty to ensure employees are not put at risk due to work activities, and that they are not exposed to risks where reasonably practicable. These are outlined in Section 2(1) and 3(1) of The Health & Safety at Work Act 1974, which are the sections this company were found to be in breach of.

If an employee reports concerns to management, this must be addressed. Failing to do so could result in the employees reporting it to the HSE – or sustaining an injury/accident/health problem as a result of the issue. It could also result in prosecution, legal action, fines and person injury claims, as happened in the case above.

How can you mitigate the risk of asbestos?

Asbestos ceased to be used in all new buildings after 1999, so anything built after the year 2000 will not contact Asbestos, or materials associated with asbestos.

Pre-2000 the following points should be considered prior to doing any work:

  • Identify where there might be asbestos-containing materials.
  • Consider eliminating the need to work with asbestos. Can you avoid disturbing asbestos by doing the job some other way?
  • Does the work need to be done by a licensed contractor?
  • Where it is not possible to eliminate the risk, develop a plan of work that highlights the risks and identifies the controls that must be used. Communicate this so that it is understood by all involved.
  • Workers must be provided with the appropriate respiratory protective equipment (RPE) and any other protective equipment identified in the plan of work. This must be properly fitted, clean and in full working order.
  • Ensure all workers are trained in non-licensable asbestos work and follow the appropriate task guidance sheets.
  • Use an asbestos waste container and dispose of asbestos waste safely.

How do I know if my building contains asbestos?

If you are unsure if your business is located in a building that may contain asbestos, an asbestos survey should be carried out. Once you know the location of the asbestos, steps must be taken to ensure that the asbestos is not disturbed, and that anyone working in the area is aware of the location. Signage can be put up to ensure this.

Managing asbestos can be simple. Taking photographs every year of the asbestos and comparing them to each other should indicate if there are any changes to the area. Log your inspections and keep copies of your documentation that are easily identifiable and communicate any findings to the workforce.

If you’d like to learn more about Asbestos management we offer two e-learning courses – Asbestos Awareness and Asbestos Awareness for Architects and Designers.

Health & Safety Online Training

As today’s working environments continually evolve, so do the risks and challenges they present. And our Health & Safety e-learning courses are more relevant than ever.

Our online training comprehensively covers key areas of workplace safety including Behavioural Safety, Emergency First Aid, Manual Handling, and Working at Height. We offer industry-specific modules like Asbestos Awareness, CDM Awareness, and NVQ Units, crucial for construction sector workers.

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