Looking after workers removing asbestos

The UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) highlights the importance of worker safety in asbestos removal

Worker safety is of paramount importance when working with asbestos containing materials (ACMs). Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that was widely used in construction and other industries due to its durability and fire-resistant properties. However, it has since been linked to several serious health conditions, including mesothelioma, lung cancer, and asbestosis, which can develop many years after exposure.
Asbestos was widely used in building and construction until the 1980s, when its health hazards became widely known. It is estimated that there are still around 500,000 commercial and public buildings in the UK that contain asbestos. This includes schools, hospitals, offices, and homes.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012) require that employers take steps to protect their employees from the risks of exposure to asbestos. This includes providing training and information to employees who are liable to be exposed to asbestos, and ensuring that work with asbestos is properly planned, managed, and monitored.

Health risks
The dangers of asbestos exposure have been well-documented for decades. Asbestos fibres, when inhaled, can become lodged in the lung tissue, causing irritation and inflammation. Over time, this can lead to the development of serious health conditions such as mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, chest, and abdomen. Other health conditions that have been linked to asbestos exposure include lung cancer, asbestosis, and pleural thickening.
It is important to note that not all asbestos containing materials are dangerous if the material is not disturbed, is not in poor condition and is managed correctly. The danger comes from the release of fibres into the air, which can be caused by maintenance activities. The asbestos containing products that are most high-risk when disturbed are those such as insulation materials, spray-on fireproofing, and pipe and boiler insulation which can release large amounts of fibres.

Asbestos awareness training is essential as a minimum for anyone who may encounter asbestos in their work, including local and central government employees, construction workers, building maintenance staff, and others. The training will cover the hazards of asbestos exposure, the types of materials that may contain asbestos, and how to avoid the risks from asbestos by understanding where to obtain information on asbestos in premises prior to commencing work. It also covers the procedures to be followed when coming into unintentional contact with ACMs.
‘Working with’ asbestos training is required for those whose work is planned to intentionally disturb materials containing asbestos including removal. This training will cover the proper procedures for safely removing asbestos-containing materials, including understanding the requirements to prevent the spread of asbestos and control exposure, the use of personal protective equipment (PPE) and decontamination procedures.
Regulations require the duty holder to ‘be aware of any asbestos containing materials (ACMs) on the premises, to review and keep up-to-date records of said materials, assess and manage the risks of the materials and provide the necessary information regarding the materials to those liable to work on or disturb them.’
UKATA ‘Duty to Manage Asbestos’ training is recommended to any persons who require an overview of the duty to manage and legislative requirements. This would normally include, but is not limited to duty holder’s assistants, appointed persons assistants, building owners, landlords, sub-lessors, managing agents etc. and any person assisting duty holders in the compliance with CAR 2012, Regulation 4.
Training will provide the delegate with a basic understanding of the legislative requirements with reference to the duty holder and who that could be, the surveys available, what to expect in a survey and the asbestos management plan and its use and requirement.
It is important to note that Regulation 10 of this publication requires employers to make sure that anyone who supervises employees who are liable to disturb asbestos during their work ensures they receive the correct level of information, instruction, and training to enable them to carry out their work safely and competently and without risk to themselves or others.
The policing of the regulations could now get harsher following a recent parliamentary inquiry to examine the current risks posed by asbestos in the workplace, the actions taken by HSE to mitigate them and how its approach compares to those taken in other countries.
Asbestos is the single greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK.
The UK death rate from asbestos-related diseases is the highest in the world with more than 5,000 people in the UK continuing to die each year.

Government responsibility
The United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) is a non-profit organisation that provides training and certification for workers who may come into contact with ACMs. UKATA’s training courses cover a wide range of topics, including the identification of ACMs, safe handling and removal procedures, and the use of personal protective equipment. These courses are designed to meet the requirements of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Control of Asbestos Regulations (CAR) 2012.
In addition to providing training and certification, UKATA also works to promote awareness of the dangers of asbestos with other organisations and government.
Local and central government have a responsibility to ensure that their employees are appropriately asbestos trained, as well as to ensure that the buildings they are responsible for are safe for employees and the public. This includes regular asbestos surveys, and management plans for buildings that contain asbestos.
It is important to note that the responsibility for asbestos management in buildings does not just fall on the shoulders of local and central government. Building owners and landlords also have a legal duty to manage any asbestos in their buildings and to ensure that anyone who works on or in the building is not exposed to asbestos.

Established in 2008, UKATA is a highly respected, leading authority on asbestos training. UKATA’s passion is to both maintain and improve asbestos training, ensuring the highest standards are upheld by means of continuous quality assessment of UKATA training provided by our members.
UKATA continuously works within current legislation as a minimum, whilst collaborating with industry partners to ensure that the UK has the highest standards of asbestos safety.
UKATA freely shares knowledge and information both on the website and across social media, demonstrating that education remains the number one priority.

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