If you are an owner of a business, an employer, or person responsible for the management of a building, it is important to understand your legal responsibilities and obligations on all manner of health and safety issues. One really important aspect that is often overlooked is the employer’s responsibility relating to asbestos. Asbestos is a potentially dangerous substance when disturbed, and although banned within construction in the UK in 1999, it often becomes apparent during renovation, refurbishment and demolition projects in old buildings. As an employer you should understand what you should do if you become aware that asbestos is present in a building you manage.
Working with asbestos is categorised as a high-risk activity, causing potential long-term health implications to any person who comes into contact with it. Asbestos related illnesses such as mesothelioma do not display symptoms for many decades in the vast majority of cases, by which time it is too late for the victims. If you work with asbestos, or there is asbestos present in a building you own or run a company from, you have to be aware of the licensed asbestos contractors who must be used to deal with the asbestos situation.
It is illegal to carry out any work with asbestos unless you hold a license to do so. Exposure to asbestos fibres must be prevented at all times if you are working with asbestos, as release of the fibres through the disturbance of the material can be fatal if a person breathes them in. If exposure cannot be entirely prevented it must be limited with the use of protective clothing and respiratory equipment.
Regulations relating to work with asbestos state that all work methods and controls must be designed with the sole purpose of preventing the exposure of asbestos fibres and the spread of asbestos fibres. Even if you personally are not working with asbestos your employer must have an asbestos management plan in place.
If you suspect that there may be asbestos present in the area you are working, immediately inform your employer and your union, as you should cease working straight away to minimise the risk of exposure. Never touch any materials that you consider might contain asbestos, unless you have received full training as a licensed asbestos contractor and have the full protective clothing and equipment to do so.
Remember, if you are in charge of looking after a building, or the owner/manager of a business, and you suspect that there is asbestos present in the building you should immediately contact the authorities. Asbestos is a potentially dangerous material if interacted with and disturbed, causing long-term health implications such as mesothelioma that might take decades to show symptoms. Licensed asbestos contractors are the only people who can legally remove asbestos from a structure. Hire professionals to conduct asbestos surveys to be sure of how much asbestos is present, its precise location, and to provide analysis and advice on what the next steps should be.