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June 2, 2015

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Asbestos – hot weather working

clouds-429228_640By Paul Clarke-Scholes of Clifford Devlin.

When conducting asbestos removal within enclosures the effects hot weather may have on operatives is a key health and safety issue that must be considered.

Provided there is no significant risk of elevated temperatures from any mechanical source inside the enclosure, supervisors are advised to monitor temperatures during periods of warm weather, by keeping an eye on the forecast and daily temperatures via internet services, smartphones etc. The supervisor should be issued with a thermometer to check the temperature on site both outside and inside the enclosure.

The key figure is 28 degrees celsius (below this level heat stress is sufficiently unlikely that it can be considered a safe working temperature). Anything above 28OC poses a significant risk of heat stress to operatives working inside an enclosure. However, given the complexities involved in asbestos removal, taking a simple temperature reading outside the enclosure and calculating an effective temperature (ET) reading within the enclosure is not sufficient. The following issues must be factored-in when calculating the ET: wet and dry bulb readings both inside and outside the enclosure; wind movement factors in cooling; insulation effects of PPE and other clothing; work activities being undertaken and work rate. This will normally require a detailed assessment by a suitably skilled safety practitioner or other senior manager.

Should the ET exceed 28OC Supervisors are advised to eliminate or reduce the risks by taking all or some of the following actions, as practicable:

  • Arrange the programme of work such that one enclosure is sheeted on the first day and then stripped on the morning of the second before the heat builds up;
  • Use Corex to provide shade to an enclosure;
  • Provide simple fans within the enclosure to create cooling airflow. The fans should be directed to blow fibre toward the NPU and away from the individual, so NOT blowing into the face and not blowing toward the airlocks or baglocks;
  • Increase the size or numbers of NPUs to induce greater airflow through the airlocks being careful NOT to introduce so much negative pressure as to risk the collapse of an enclosure, no more than 16 air changes per hour;
  • Rotate the workforce to give everyone regular breaks;
  • Ensure there are supplies of cold water available during breaks; and
  • Conduct a hot work toolbox talk and ensure that symptoms such as headaches and nausea are reported and that operatives take a break if they display any of the symptoms of heat stress.

If these measures are insufficient to reduce temperatures during the work to below 28OC, further assessment and controls are likely.

For example, removal operatives can be issued with ‘cool vests’ to wear in the enclosure, beneath their coveralls, which will assist in keeping body temperatures reduced. These vests are designed with a water management system created from the material, which absorbs, stores and releases water within a multi layered fabric. The vest is submerged in water for 1-2 minutes, before gently removing excess water. The garment will remain hydrated for several hours and can be re-hydrated as necessary. Following the works the vests must be disposed in the same way that other garments are i.e. sealed into clear waste sacks and removed to the permanent wet room enclosure for cleaning.

Paul Clarke-Scholes is an asbestos consultant with contractor Clifford Devlin.

This is the last of a series of twelve blogs which discuss the latest issues in asbestos management.

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In this episode  of the Safety & Health Podcast, ‘Burnout, stress and being human’, Heather Beach is joined by Stacy Thomson to discuss burnout, perfectionism and how to deal with burnout as an individual, as management and as an organisation.

We provide an insight on how to tackle burnout and why mental health is such a taboo subject, particularly in the workplace.


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