Although we’ve been aware of the dangers of asbestos for many years, the use of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) was not banned in the UK until 1999. This means that even modern buildings (any building constructed or refurbished before the year 200) may contain ACMs and present a risk to workers and contractors.
Employers have a legal requirement to protect employees who work in these buildings on an everyday basis. Any refurbishment or remodelling plans need to take ACMs into consideration.
Contractors who undertake work within the building are liable to disturb asbestos while carrying out their work and will need Asbestos Awareness Training. This Awareness training is particularly essential for the following groups of contractors:
- General maintenance workers
- Painters and decorators
- Shop fitters
- Roofers and construction workers
- Gas fitters
- Heating and ventilation engineers
- Telecom engineers
- Burglar alarm and fire alarm installation personnel
- Computer Installers
- Demolition workers
- Building surveyors
Asbestos Awareness Training is designed to ensure that workers learn how to avoid the risks and know how to protect themselves. Asbestos Awareness Training should include the following subjects:
- The properties of asbestos and the effects on health, this includes the increased risk of developing lung cancer, especially for asbestos workers who smoke.
- The types of asbestos, their uses and the likelihood of asbestos or ACMs occurring in buildings and plant.
- General operating procedures for dealing with an emergency (for example an uncontrolled release of asbestos into the work environment).
- How to avoid the risk of exposure to asbestos.
It’s the responsibility of all employers in the UK to ensure that staff members have the requisite training, including the knowledge, experience and ability to carry out their everyday work without risk to themselves or others. Supervisors and managers need to be trained and made aware of their responsibilities. It’s essential that the training provider is fully aware of the tasks carried out by your employees and the environment within which they work.
The UK Health and Safety Executive collaborates with training providers to promote and improve competency. The asbestos training undertaken should be industry appropriate and there are different types of training that can be undertaken depending on the type of work.Training for ‘non-licensable’ asbestos work is designed for workers who carry out work with asbestos that doesn’t need a licence buy may involve the disturbance of lower risk ACMs. This should be job specific and provided in addition to asbestos awareness training. Workers who should receive such training are those who carry out the following types of tasks:
- Laying cables in areas that contain undamaged asbestos materials
- Drilling holes in asbestos materials (this includes drilling for sampling and analysis)
- Removal of asbestos containing floor tiles
- Repair or cleaning of asbestos cement sheet roofing or cladding
Training for licensed asbestos work is targeted at those who work with higher risk ACMs. This work may only be carried out by licensed contractors who are suitably trained and use respiratory protective equipment (appropriate medical surveillance is also necessary). This training is essential for managers, supervisors and operatives working for a licensed contractor.
Refresher training should be undertaken on an annual basis and should be structured to meet any changes in work methods, types of tasks and types of equipment used.