Most people are familiar with the dangers of asbestos, yet the material was commonly used in construction throughout the 1970s and 1980s until its risks to human health were subsequently discovered. Because of its versatility, asbestos was used in a variety of applications, including cement flooring, insulation board, textured ceilings, spray coatings, and internal walls and ceilings. Many properties that were built or refurbished prior to 1999 contain the substance in some form, so understanding how to control asbestos in the workplace is critical for premises managers who have a duty to manage it.
What Are The Dangers Of Asbestos?
Thousands of people die or fall ill each year in the UK due to exposure to asbestos dust, yet the presence of asbestos in a building is not necessarily a risk factor to workers or service users. However, if asbestos-containing materials (ACM’s) are discovered or suspected, strict safety measures must be implemented to establish whether a risk exists and, if so, what action should be taken.
When disturbed, or if ACM degrades over time, asbestos fibres can be released into the air. If these are inhaled and become lodged in the lungs, several diseases can develop, particularly mesothelioma (a cancer exclusively linked to exposure to ACM) or a malignant tumour that develops in the lining that covers the outer surface of some of the body’s organs (i.e., mainly affects the lining of the lungs – pleural mesothelioma – although it can also affect the lining of the abdomen – peritoneal mesothelioma). As symptoms may not emerge for many years – even decades – it’s impossible to assess whether someone will become ill if exposed to asbestos. The risk, however, is high.
Managing Asbestos In The Workplace
The person who has a duty to manage asbestos in the workplace should ensure that the following actions are undertaken:
- An asbestos risk assessment is carried out to identify all ACM dangers in the workplace.
- An asbestos management plan is written, detailing the location of ACM and its condition.
- An agreed timetable establishes how the condition of asbestos will be monitored and the progress of control measures implemented.
- Employees, visitors, and service users are informed about the presence of ACM and the control measures that have been put in place.
- Signage is displayed to indicate where asbestos exists.
- The asbestos management plan is kept under review.
What Should Be Included In The Asbestos Management Plan?
The asbestos management plan should include:
- When the assessment was carried out.
- The outcomes of the assessment.
- A detailed action plan, with information about actions, monitoring, timetable, and responsibilities.
- Training and communication arrangements.
- Procedures for reviewing the plan, including personnel and timescales.
A key part of the asbestos management plan is the use of assessment criteria. The trained and competent professional who carries out the assessment will score any suspected ACM according to:
- The type of product.
- The extent of any damage.
- How the surface of the ACM is treated.
- Whether it is likely to be disturbed.
- How often the area is use.
- Human exposure potential.
- Maintenance Activity.
This data enables control measures to be designed and implemented, protecting staff, visitors, and service users from risk.
Contact Us For Professional Asbestos Risk Management
At Occupational Management Consultants, we carry out professional asbestos risk management surveys in commercial properties and can design cost-effective technical solutions using our extensive experience in the field. To find out more, get in touch today on 01484 627263 or talk to one of our experts.
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