How can employers stop exposing their employees to asbestos?

An Asbestos Management Guide.

As another victim of the asbestos legacy goes public, how do employers in 2012 ensure they are not exposing their employees to deadly asbestos fibres?

A former British Leyland worker (Wilfred Allen) who died from mesothelioma may have been exposed to asbestos whist working at the Birmingham plant between 1962 and 1976. Wilfred died in April 2009 aged 72. Our best wishes are for Wilfred’s family.

Wilfred’s time working at the former British Leyland plant places him directly in the boom years for asbestos use. Asbestos materials such as asbestos loose insulation, asbestos sprayed coatings, asbestos thermal insulation, asbestos boards, asbestos cement and so on, all may have been used within the construction of the building.

Within the UK asbestos manufacture and usage peaked within the building, shipping and rail industries between 1940 and 1970. During this period it is estimated that 8 to 10 million tonnes per year of asbestos materials were imported, manufactured and used.

From 1970 onwards there was a steady decline in the use of asbestos as the knowledge of the health effects associated with the material increased. Although there was a steady decline, we must all be aware that millions of tonnes of asbestos were used right up until the full UK prohibition of asbestos in November 1999.

Sadly for Wilfred his working life was outside the protection of the current asbestos regulations which are in force today.

As an employer, what can you do to prevent your employees being exposed to asbestos in your premises?

Well comply with the law of course. Does that sound easy??

Well it actually is. Below I have put together 8 simple steps to help you protect your staff and aid you in complying with the law.

Step 1 – You need to identified if there are any asbestos containing materials present. If so you need to record its amount, where it is and what condition it is in.

This can be achieved by having an asbestos survey carried out.

Step 2 – You need to presume that materials contain asbestos unless you have evidence that they do not.

Guilty until proven innocent. The excuse of “I didn’t know it was asbestos” doesn’t protect you from prosecution.

Step 3 – You must keep an up-to-date record of the location and condition of the asbestos materials; or materials which are presumed to contain asbestos.

Regular checks on all asbestos materials should be carried out by a competent person. This is usually in the form of an asbestos re-inspection survey. Ensure that records are kept of any removals or repairs that may be undertaken.

Step 4 – You must assess the risk of anyone being exposed to asbestos fibres from the materials identified in your premises.

These assessments are usually referred to as priority risk assessments. Priority risk assessments look at the likelihood of someone disturbing the asbestos materials and therefore the likely hood of that person being exposed to asbestos.

Step 5 – You must prepare a plan that sets out in detail how the risks from these materials will be managed.

A written plan needs to be prepared which sets out how the risks from any asbestos are to be managed. Managing the risk means making sure that no one can come to any harm from asbestos within the premises. The asbestos management plan is a document with legal status.

Step 6 – You must take the necessary steps to put the plan into action.

What ever you decide to do to manage your asbestos risk, you must ensure it is completed. Sounds like common sense, however you’d be amazed at how many people write their best intentions, but never see them through.

Step 7 – You must periodically review and monitor the plan and the arrangements to act on it so that the plan remains relevant and up-to-date.

Every six months you must review your asbestos management plan to check that it still works. Are your risk assessments correct? Is the plan relevant? If not you may need to re-look and amend.

Step 8 – You must provide information on the location and condition of the asbestos materials to anyone who is liable to work on or disturb them.

All of your asbestos records must be made available to the relevant people working within your premises. All staff, contractors and regular building users etc will require access to your asbestos records.

Follow these steps and you too can help prevent workers being exposed to asbestos within your premises.

If you need help with managing your asbestos call us on 0844 800 0801. We give free advice to everyone, any time.