Despite being banned in 1999, asbestos is still widespread across the UK built environment. Asbestos containing materials (ACMs), such as old ceiling tiles, plasterboard and wall insulation, may still be present in buildings - particularly those built before the late 1970s. Meanwhile, traces of the substance may be found in remnants of paints and other coatings after the original ACM has been removed, or even in soils after the building has been demolished.
With this in mind, it is clear that ACMs, whatever their nature, need to be appropriately managed by the duty holder responsible for asbestos management within the property, to ensure the best possible standards of health and safety are adhered to. This means ensuring all such materials within a property are comprehensively mapped, and making sure that they are handled and disposed of carefully during renovation or demolition work to prevent workers being exposed to contamination unnecessarily.
However, as new techniques are developed to identify asbestos contamination, the nature of the risk is subject to change. How can duty holders stay up to date with the latest information to ensure they continue to uphold the health and safety on their site?
Education, education, education
Signing duty holders up to regular and comprehensive training is key to equipping them with the knowledge and expertise required to maintain the highest standards of asbestos management.
Such training is more than just a nice-to-have; it is a legal requirement under the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 Regulation 10: Information, instruction and training. This legislation stipulates that employers must ensure their team members are given “adequate information, instruction and training, where that employee is - or is liable to be - exposed to asbestos, or if that employee supervises such employees”.
This means that the duty holder in charge of their building must receive regular training and that all the people on their team who are involved in managing asbestos risk on the property must attend courses, to ensure that ACMs are handled and disposed of correctly.
Getting the right training
There is a wide range of training types available to the duty holders of buildings. Conventional training courses cover a wide range of topics, including the properties of asbestos and its effects on health, the types and uses of the material, and the array of ACMs commonly found in older buildings. They advise on the latest protocols to minimise risk ahead of any building work or demolition. In addition, they provide up-to-date guidance on the procedures to be followed in the event of an uncontrolled release of asbestos or a similar emergency. SOCOTEC offers an array of standard and bespoke courses, including the awareness course of the UK Asbestos Training Association (UKATA) - the nation’s principle training body for asbestos management.
Increasingly, it is recommended by UKATA that relevant duty holders and other team members charged with asbestos management receive asbestos in soils training in addition to attending conventional courses. This is due to the increase, over the last few years, in the number of developments on brownfield land. Having already been built on in the past, the soils on such sites may have traces of asbestos and other potentially hazardous chemicals present, which need to be removed before building work is allowed to begin.
Asbestos in soils training covers a range of topics, including the origins of the mineral in soils, identifying contaminants, and guidance on how to carry out remedial work to safely remove contaminated material from the site. It also offers advice on compliance with recommendations from the CL:AIRE Asbestos in Soil Guidance (CAR-SOIL™), the current definitive document on the application of the control of asbestos regulations to asbestos in soils management.
SOCOTEC also offers asbestos in soils training for duty holders - this will include UKATA approved courses - in addition to its conventional programmes. Receiving such training, the duty holders of a property can be confident that they have a complete understanding of all the likely asbestos risks on the buildings in their care. As a result, they can take steps to minimise the risk to occupants across the entire site, even during renovation or demolition work.
Staying up to speed
While asbestos has been banned as a building material for nearly 20 years now, it is likely to remain a key health and safety issue for the foreseeable future, as we all work to safely remove it from older buildings and former industrial sites.
The recommended protocols change regularly, making it important for property owners to make sure their duty holders and other people charged with managing asbestos have access to the latest training available.
Providing their team members with up-to-date knowledge and expertise, they can be sure not only that they comply with the law, but that their building’s occupants continue to enjoy the best possible protection. More than that though, it can go a long way towards helping us to eventually dispose of asbestos as a building health and safety issue for once and for all.
To find out more about the asbestos training offered by SOCOTEC, please visit www.socotec,co.uk/our-services/built-environment/asbestos-management-and-consultancy/