This is part one of a two-part blog on asbestos at work. Asbestos can be found in almost any workplace around the UK, so it’s important that you understand it and know exactly what you need to do to protect yourself from it.
What is asbestos and what are the risks?
Asbestos is a material that was once used in the construction and insulation of buildings due to its strength, durability and resistance to heat and fire. Up until relatively recently asbestos was used as a material everywhere from industrial buildings and homes to schools and hospitals.
Unfortunately while asbestos has many desirable qualities, it can also be very hazardous to human health. When asbestos fibres are disturbed they can be breathed into the lungs where they can cause significant damage and lead to a number of serious and life-threatening conditions. Because of this, the material was banned from use in the UK in 1999.
Is my building safe?
You might assume that due to the ban in 1999, the building you work in should be completely free from asbestos but unfortunately this may not be the case. While the substance is banned from any further use, any building that was built before 1999 could contain asbestos. Unless the building was built after 2000 it can be very difficult to know whether asbestos is present as it often mixed with other materials, meaning that it is effectively invisible. The only way to truly establish whether you have asbestos in the building is to have an asbestos survey carried out.
Who is responsible for dealing with asbestos?
There are laws and regulations surrounding asbestos in the workplace, which mean that an employer must prevent their employees from being exposed to the material. That means they must take steps to discover if asbestos is present and then create and implement a plan to manage the risk posed by any asbestos in the workplace. If you are concerned about asbestos at your workplace you should get in contact with your employer or your health and safety manager as it is their responsibility to keep you protected from asbestos.
Please check back to the Crucial Environmental blog for part two of what you need to know about asbestos at work, where we will cover how you can reduce the risk and what you should do if you think you’ve found asbestos.