Currently, a shocking 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos in the workplace. It’s the most significant occupational disease risk to construction workers, but many companies remain in the dark about responsible asbestos management.

Campaigns such as the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organisation’s (ADAO) Global Asbestos Awareness Week and IOSH’s No Time to Lose initiative are helping to raise awareness of carcinogenic exposure issues, but serious health and safety breaches continue on a regular basis, with a large proportion attributable to employers misunderstanding their lawful requirements.

Sarah Leake, a Southalls asbestos specialist, provides a clear-cut rundown of your responsibilities.

Create and maintain an asbestos management plan  
Simply locating the presence of asbestos is not enough to comply with regulations. Draft and regularly update an asbestos management plan to ensure you’re effectively controlling contamination and protecting those working on the premises.

Conduct investigations before building work starts

Whether you plan to drill into a wall or knock one down, carry out refurbishment and demolition surveys before beginning any intrusive building work. These will identify asbestos hidden within the fabric of the property that may have been missed on a management survey and could lead to exposure if disturbed.

Insist on asbestos awareness training for contractors
Before building begins and workers are allowed on site, thoroughly check contractors’ method statements to ensure they are asbestos awareness trained.

Operate a ‘Permit to Work’ system

After confirming a contractor’s asbestos awareness training, ensure appropriate controls are put in place by operating a ‘Permit to Work’ system.

Know your differences

If asbestos containing materials are to be worked on or removed, make sure this process is correctly identified as either licensable work, notifiable non-licensed work or non-licensed work.

Keep workers informed

To prevent accidental disturbance, thoroughly brief employees, contractors and maintenance staff on the presence and location of asbestos before any work is carried out.  

Don’t forget areas of limited access

Areas of limited access and those not assessed during a management survey are often neglected, but it’s an employer’s legal responsibility to presume they contain asbestos unless otherwise proven, making it essential that they’re not overlooked.

Keep asbestos plans and registers up to date

All asbestos management plans and registers of asbestos containing materials should be periodically reviewed, with a visual inspection where possible. Any changes to the condition of the asbestos or likelihood for disturbance should be addressed through management controls.

By adopting best practice measures and busting the many myths of asbestos management, it’s possible remain compliant and protect the long-term health of your workers.  

Southalls works with businesses across the country to assess asbestos on their premises, create and implement asbestos management plans and effectively manage the risks involved. Get in touch on hello@southalls.com to find out how we can help you.