October 25, 2011

A Guide To Asbestos In The Workplace

Asbestos is a natural mineral with its primary use in fire proofing and insulation. There are three key types of asbestos:
  • Amosite (also called grunerite or brown asbestos);
  • Chrysotile (also called serpentine or white asbestos);
  • Crocidolite (also called riebeckite or blue asbestos).
However, it is not always possible to identify them by colour alone.

Why is it hazardous to health?

Asbestos-related diseases are responsible for over 3,000 deaths per year in the UK. The delays between first exposure to asbestos and the onset of disease are usually long, and can be between 15 and 60 years. Moving or disturbing asbestos can release small fibres of asbestos into the air, and inhaling these fibres can be the cause of fatal diseases. The tiny fibres can be breathed into the lower parts of the lung and could work their way through the lung lining, potentially causing:
  • Asbestosis or fibrosis (scarring) of the lungs;
  • Mesothelioma (a cancer of the inner lining of the chest wall or abdominal cavities);
  • Lung cancer
What are the legislative requirements concerning asbestos in the workplace?

The revised Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006 (CAR) came into effect on 13 November 2006. The regulations were introduced to strengthen overall staff protection by clearly outline limits for exposure. Training for those who manage, or work directly with, asbestos has also been made mandatory.

What guidance is available in the UK?

To make people more aware of the duty to manage, and the promotion of effective compliance, there is guidance available from the HSE. An Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) to support Regulation 4 of CAR. "The management of asbestos in non-domestic premises" (L127) (revised) gives in-depth advice on how to meet compliance under the new requirements. A guidance booklet, "A comprehensive guide to managing asbestos" (HSG227) is aimed at duty holders within larger, more complex organisations. A free leaflet, "A short guide to managing asbestos in premises" is aimed at duty holders in smaller, less complex premises. HSG264 "Asbestos: The Survey Guide - a guide for surveyors and Duty Holders." This guide superseded MDHS100 in 2009 and provides a clear picture for both duty-holders and surveyors with regard to the surveys role in effective management of asbestos.

The duty to manage requires those in control of buildings to, take reasonable measures to find evidence of asbestos in the building and assess the material's condition. Make the assumption that materials contain asbestos, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary. Record the location and condition of all asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and assess the associated risks. Prepare and implement a plan to manage the above risks. Provide a report detailing the location of the materials and their condition to anyone who is likely to work on or disturb the materials.

Asbestos management consultancies should supply the following to you:
  • A review of your current management looking at all aspects of the management of asbestos and a detailed action plan for your compliance.
  • An asbestos survey to give you an understanding of where you have asbestos in your premises, if at all.
  • An Asbestos Management System so you are able to effectively manage the requirements of all asbestos regulations and to give you comprehensive information about any asbestos you have in your building.
  • Condition assessments so that asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are regularly checked for condition
  • Asbestos training for personnel at all levels, from the identification of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) to the management of asbestos in your building.
It is crucial to keep in mind that the CAR regulations state that you have a duty to manage, and not merely to survey.