It has been more than twenty years since asbestos was banned in building materials in the UK and several decades since we began to understand what a serious health risk it poses.
Because health problems can take years to reveal themselves, we are still seeing the effects of its use in construction even today. Every year there are some 5,000 deaths due to asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis.
While no longer used in new builds and building refurbishments, at least not since 1999/2000, asbestos is still found in many properties across the UK, particularly in areas such as insulating boards and roofing. Builders who work in areas where asbestos is present are at risk of inhaling fibres and causing damage to their lungs.
Creating asbestos awareness online and through face to face training is vital for a large array of different workers in the construction industry. This encompasses everyone from plumbers and electricians, painters and decorators, shopfitters and roofers to surveyors, property managers and demolition workers.
Whether you are a one-man operation or a large corporation, understanding asbestos health and safety should be a priority. Ensuring that every individual is trained to recognise when asbestos is present and take the appropriate action is an ongoing process that remains relevant even today.
The main piece of legislation is the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 which covers both licenced and non-licenced work. It means that if you need to carry out any building or maintenance work and there is asbestos likely to be involved, you need to identify where it is, what condition it is in and assess what the risks are.
Anyone who is likely to find themselves exposed to asbestos needs to have appropriate training. That doesn’t just mean workers who are involved in its removal but anyone who is likely to come into contact with the substance including builders, maintenance staff and cable installers.
Any building that was built before 2000 may have some amount of asbestos in it. In the UK, that means the vast majority of homes and business properties present at least some risk. Most asbestos is not dangerous as long as it is in good condition and is left undisturbed. When damaged, however, the dust produced can get into the lungs and cause long-term health problems.
It’s important not only to provide supervisors and managers with the appropriate training when it comes to asbestos but workers themselves as well. They’re usually the ones that are at the forefront of any building or maintenance operation and the first on the scene. It makes sense, therefore, to ensure they are able to recognise asbestos-containing materials and understand what the right procedure is in dealing with it.
Asbestos awareness training does not give people the skill to remove the material safely. This in itself is a highly specialised undertaking and requires a qualified operative who has the right equipment and knows what they are doing.
If you are a building or maintenance company that is regularly contracted out to third parties, they may well require your staff to have training in this area before they take you on.
The good news is that there are asbestos awareness online courses as well as face to face sessions that can be organised for you and your staff.
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