What is asbestos?
Asbestos is a naturally occurring silicate mineral fibre which is mined from rock seams around the world, including Canada, South Africa, Russia and China. Asbestos has a number of unique properties such as thermal stability and a high tensile strength, which are extremely useful in construction. As a result, asbestos was used extensively in the UK in the last century, with peak uses in the 1950-70’s.
Could asbestos be present in my building?
Asbestos was used in more than 3,000 man-made products including insulation, boards, cement, textiles, vinyl and many other materials. If your building was constructed before the year 1999, it could contain asbestos. Historical and listed buildings can also contain asbestos – even if it wasn’t used in the original construction it could have been introduced during the life of the building through refurbishment and other modifications.
Is asbestos bad for your health?
Yes, asbestos is a category one carcinogen. Prolonged exposure to large amounts of airborne asbestos fibre can cause fatal cancers if you breathe them in. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimate that asbestos related diseases cause around 5,500 deaths every year in the UK. The realisation of its effect on health resulted in its gradual prohibition with the use of white asbestos finally banned in the UK in 1999.
Is there a legal requirement to manage asbestos safely?
Yes. In an attempt to prevent further deaths the HSE introduced a set of specific health and safety regulations to help control and manage asbestos in the workplace. The HSE now actively enforces the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). Regulation 4 clearly defines ‘dutyholders’ as those who manage non-domestic premises; these are the people with a legal responsibility for protecting others from the risk of asbestos exposure. Those responsible for managing asbestos in domestic properties such as landlords, local authorities and housing associations also have a duty to provide a safe working environment with regards to asbestos under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.
I think that I could have asbestos in my building and that I could be a duty holder. What do I do next?
One of the first things to do is to find out whether asbestos is present in your building. A UKAS accredited Management Survey will involve a detailed inspection of the building, taking samples of suspect materials and a risk assessment. The surveyors report will include an asbestos register, certificates of analysis, photographs and plans identifying what type of asbestos is present and where. The recommended actions could include removing asbestos in poor condition, making the material safe or just monitoring its condition. In most cases, if a licensed asbestos material is removed you should obtain UKAS accredited certification as evidence that the area is safe to be reoccupied.
A UKAS accredited Refurbishment Survey should be undertaken before any refurbishment commences. Any asbestos which may be disturbed by the works must be identified and appropriately managed before work starts. Additionally, if you are going to demolish a building, a UKAS accredited Demolition Survey is required first.
Certain people within your organisation may be subject to Regulation 10, Information, Instruction and Training. This means that anyone who may come into contact with asbestos at work or who is responsible for managing it must have the relevant training and competency to do so.
Other aspects of an effective asbestos management system will be the Management Plan itself, a condition monitoring schedule, emergency procedures and so on, all tailored to your organisation.
How can Santia help?
Santia’s national team of consultants help dutyholders to keep their people and working environments safe. We operate in any built environment which can contain asbestos and are established across a broad range of sectors.
We provide all of the specialist services needed to manage asbestos, including UKAS accredited asbestos surveys, analysis and air monitoring, BOHS and UKATA approved training, consultancy and the project management of asbestos removal.
Santia exceeds all of the requirements of the HSE and other associated bodies with regards to working with asbestos. As our people work with a dangerous substance each day, we have robust procedures to follow and rigorous training in the laboratory and the field. We are accredited by UKAS, the UK’s sole accreditation body for asbestos testing and inspection. Stringent in-house quality management systems guarantee the standard of work to our customers, many of whom have been retained for nearly 20 years.