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Are you doing enough to protect your employees from Asbestos?

There have been a number of prosecutions recently of companies who have failed to protect their employees from being exposed to asbestos. Most prosecutions occur where companies have failed to consider the possibility of asbestos or have continued to work without adequate measures in place after asbestos has been disturbed. In these cases it will be years before it is known whether or not exposure has resulted in asbestos related illness, but if it has the costs of any claim could be much more than the fines imposed at prosecution.

The importation, supply and use of all forms of asbestos is now banned, however, Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) can still be found in both industrial and residential properties built or refurbished before the year 2000. ACMs were used widely as insulation and fire proofing material and are often found in sprayed coatings; water tanks; ceiling and floor tiles; toilet seats and cisterns; cement roofs and panels; and asbestos insulating board in walls or around boilers.

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Before starting any work in a building that might contain asbestos a company must:

  • Identify whether asbestos is present and determine its type and condition. If no information is available and it is suspected that asbestos may be present the area should be surveyed and samples of the material to be worked on analysed.
  • Carry out a risk assessment and decide if it’s possible to carry out the work avoiding the risk of asbestos exposure all together. If that’s not possible, identify who might be at risk and the level of possible asbestos exposure from any work. On this basis, decide what work methods are necessary to provide effective control of the risks.
  • Decide if the work needs to be carried out by a licensed contractor. Most asbestos removal work will require a contractor holding a licence from HSE. All work with sprayed asbestos coatings and asbestos lagging and most work with asbestos insulation and asbestos insulating board (AIB) require a licence. Non-licensed contractors carrying out licensed work will be prosecuted and could face a custodial sentence.
  • If the work is not licensable, decide if the work needs to be notified. If it doesn’t need a licence, you can do maintenance work on or around ACMs with the appropriate controls in place but in some circumstances it may still require notifying.
  • Ensure those carrying out the work are suitably trained. Any worker who is liable to disturb asbestos during their day-to-day work needs to receive appropriate training to enable them to protect themselves and others.

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If you would like any further information or advice, a member of our Health & Safety Management Team are here to assist you. Call 01302 341 344.

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