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September 2, 2016

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Asbestos

Friday take five – Asbestos management

As part of SHP’s focus on occupational health, Sarah Leake from Southalls explores five key things you need to know about effective asbestos management.

According to the HSE, asbestos-related diseases contribute to the death of 20 tradespeople per week. More than 15 years since the full UK ban on importation, supply and use of all forms of asbestos, effective control of the material remains a significant issue for the health and safety industry, with a concerning proportion of businesses prosecuted by the HSE each year for asbestos mismanagement.

So, how can organisations fulfill their duty to safely manage and control asbestos? Here are five key things you need to know:

  1. Go beyond the asbestos survey – a significant proportion of organisations are unaware of their legal responsibility to follow up an asbestos survey with a comprehensive management plan. The plan should outline how you will manage known asbestos-containing materials to prevent potential exposure. The recommended control measures outlined in the asbestos survey should be implemented and documented within the management plan. The plan should also detail the emergency procedures that will be implemented, in the event of asbestos being accidentally disturbed.
  2.  Awareness is crucial – all persons undertaking maintenance within an area containing asbestos must receive information on exactly where the asbestos is. A copy of the asbestos survey or management plan should be shown, prior to commencing any work. This should include a list of what asbestos materials were identified, their location and extent, otherwise known as the Materials Register.
  3. Know what to do if asbestos is accidently disturbed – taking the right action can help prevent gross contamination and exposure. Emergency procedures should be included in the management plan and should detail what steps to take if asbestos is accidently disturbed. If there are any materials of concern found during the work, the work should be stopped immediately. Immediate measures taken should prevent or minimise exposure to airborne asbestos fibres.
  4. Take steps to warn workers – be vocal when it comes to notifying workers about the presence of asbestos. Place warning signs and stickers where the asbestos is located to ensure employees are aware. Duty holders must ensure that information on where asbestos is present is communicated internally to make sure it is not accidentally disturbed during day-to-day activities.
  5. Never start major refurbishment or demolition works without a survey – a Refurbishment & Demolition (R&D) survey must be carried out before any intrusive works start that will affect the fabric of the building. This will identify whether any asbestos is at risk of being disturbed during the work, which should be removed prior to the work commencing.

By following these steps and adopting these precautionary measures, any potential risks to health can be minimised and asbestos management becomes far more effective.

Sarah Leake is a health and safety consultant at Southalls, which provides comprehensive asbestos surveys and management plans as well as online health and safety management software, Safety Cloud. You can contact Sarah on LinkedIn https://uk.linkedin.com/in/sarahleake1 or follow Southalls on Twitter @southallassoc 

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