Asbestos is still the largest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK.

are you, your colleagues, or students at risks? 

In the UK alone, there are over 5,000 deaths every year from inhaling asbestos fibres. This makes it the largest single cause of work-related deaths in the UK, and is more than the number of people who die on the roads each year.

 

Many of these deaths could have been avoided if the asbestos had been managed correctly. After all, we have known about the hazards associated with inhaled asbestos fibres for many years, with the first recorded asbestos death back in 1906.

 

What is Asbestos: 

Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fibre that has been used in construction and other processes for its ability to strengthen materials such as concrete, ceramics and plastics; and to act as insulation, including as a fire proofing. The first recorded use of asbestos dates back to the Stone Age where it was used to strengthen ceramic pots. 

 

Where do we find it today: 

The asbestos removal industry estimates that over 3,000 products contained asbestos. It can be found in the following:


  • Insulation and sprayed coatings used for boilers, plant and pipework (some are obvious, but some are hidden in underfloor ducting); fire protection to steelwork, often hidden behind false ceilings; and thermal and acoustic insulation of buildings.
  • Insulating board used in fire protection to doors, protected exits and steelwork; claddings on walls and ceilings; internal walls, partitions and suspended ceiling tiles; and fire blankets.
  • Asbestos cement, which is found as: corrugated roofing and cladding sheets of buildings; flat sheets for partitions, cladding and other door facings; and rainwater gutters and downpipes.
  • Other products include some textured coatings and paints; friction materials (such as brake linings and clutch plates); and flash guards and components within electrical equipment.


The use of asbestos in construction was banned in 1999 so any building built after 2000 should be free from asbestos


What are the Risks: 

Asbestos deaths occur when airborne fibres become lodged in the lungs, which can lead to lung cancer or other deadly diseases. The symptoms from asbestos may not appear for many years, taking anywhere from 15-60 years to cause death. However, with the right training and management processes in place, we can make a real difference to the future death toll.

 

What do I need to do about it? 

Employers and others have a general legal duty to protect any person from exposure to asbestos. To comply with the ‘Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012’ (CAR2012), you must make sure that the correct asbestos survey is carried out to identify and manage the risk of any Asbestos Containing Materials (ACMs) that are present within a building. 

 

If you own or manage buildings built before 2000, you will need an asbestos survey, and following the survey, an asbestos register may need to be created. A suitable risk assessment will need to be carried out, with a written plan to manage the risks identified by the materials present. There is no requirement to remove asbestos, especially if it is unlikely to be damaged. In a school, the likelihood of this occurring should carefully be assessed. 

 

As well as carrying out the survey, you will need to ensure anyone who might be affected is aware of the risks. This can be done in several ways, including attending an approved in person training course, or doing an online awareness course

 

Need more information:

The Department for Education have produced a guide on Managing asbestos in your school or college which is a useful starting point for more information. 


The HSE has produce an Asbestos Checklist specifically for schools.  


The HSE’s asbestos information hub is also a useful generic reference point if you need any more information. 

 

Here is a link to the text of the regulations themselves: Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012

 

Conclusion:

While the deaths mentioned from Asbestos related illnesses, are in the main from historic exposures. We still need to be vigilant as there are still thousands of works repairing, refurbishing or demolishing the many buildings in the UK where ACMs are still present. 

 

It is up to everyone to do their bit every day to help reduce the number of deaths in the future. 

 

Here are 3 simple tips to follow as an employee if asbestos is known to be present in your workplace:

  • Make sure you are familiar with the risks associated with asbestos. Speak to your supervisor about any training you may need to attend. 
  • Do not disturb the fabric of the building in case asbestos is present. This includes not pinning anything to the walls, this is so that you do not disturb any asbestos.
  • If the floor, ceiling tiles, or any other part of the fabric of the building are damaged, report this to your supervisor or building manager.


Help Me Please!

Click below to get help from your very own safety expert. 

If you don't need help just now, but want to get regular updates on the latest changes to legislation and best practice to keep you safe:
click here to sign up to our eLERT newsletter

>