Asbestos is a naturally occurring, fibrous material. Due to its durability and resistance to heat and flame, asbestos has been utilised in dozens of occupations and industries for decades. But, long before its popularity in industry peaked, asbestos was linked to several health problems. And, over the years, hundreds of workers have developed a deadly asbestos-related disease called mesothelioma.
Asbestos Concerns for places of work and the hazards of asbestos have been clear for decades now. Since asbestos occur naturally in the environment, everyone breathes in trace amounts of asbestos on daily basis. Due to the possibility of inhaling asbestos fibres, even short-term exposure to significant levels of asbestos on the job can result in coughing, breathing problems and shortness of breath. Asbestos has been classified as a cancer-causing (carcinogen) substance. Consequently, the most serious health risks come from long-term exposure to asbestos on the job — especially for older people who may have spent decades in the workplace before the advent of safety measures that help protect employees from most asbestos exposure in the modern workplace.
Asbestos Concerns for places of work
Serious health problems related to asbestos exposure include:
• lung cancer
• mesothelioma (a form of cancer that invades the lining of the chest and abdomen)
• asbestosis (lung inflammation and build-up that can result in difficulty breathing, coughing and permanent lung damage)
• gastrointestinal and colorectal cancers, and
• Abnormalities (calcification and thickening) in the lining of the chest cavity.
Jobs with Higher Risk of Asbestos Exposure
Decades after the advent of health concerns about asbestos and the rise in deadly asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma, exposure to asbestos is still quite common (even necessary) in some lines of work.
Here is a list of industries and occupations that have traditionally exposed workers to significant levels of asbestos:
• renovation, construction, and demolition of residential and commercial buildings
• ship building
• paper mills
• Repair of heating and cooling equipment
• automotive repair (especially clutch and brake repair)
• manufacture of products containing asbestos
• roofing, and
• maintenance jobs in buildings containing deteriorating asbestos.
Depending on the industry you work in and the specifics of your job, you may be legally entitled to receive – and your employer may be legally obligated to provide – the following kinds of on-the-job protections from asbestos exposure:
• training of workers that will be dealing with and/or around asbestos
• Thoroughly aerated workspaces
• monitoring of workers for asbestos encounter levels (together with regular monitoring for employees concerned with the removal of asbestos-containing materials)
• warning indications and guidance in locations where asbestos-related jobs are executed
• protective clothing such as coveralls , foot coverings, gloves, face shields, and goggles
• protective gear like respirators
• showers together with other post-exposure precautions, and
• medical assessments for some employees exposed to higher levels of asbestos.
Legal obligations and regulations relating to asbestos
As well as the moral duty of employers to protect employees and members of the public, General Health and Safety Legislation cover all employers and workplaces. In addition, there are two sets of regulations dealing specifically with asbestos:
The Control over Asbestos at Work Stipulations 2002
These stipulations place a duty on business owners to avoid contact with asbestos. If this is not fairly acceptable, exposure must be alleviated to the lowest level.
They need employers to conduct a risk evaluation before any work on asbestos is executed.
More specifically, these regulations also require duty holders, (who can be building owners, facilities managers, tenants and others who have legal responsibilities for premises) to:
• take reasonable steps to find asbestos in the premises
• assess the condition of these materials
• presume that materials do contain asbestos unless there is strong evidence that they do not
• prepare a record of the location and condition of these materials
• assess the risk from these materials
• prepare and implement a plan to manage those risks
• Provide information on the location and condition of the material to anyone who is likely to disturb it.
The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006
Changes introduced by this legislation include:
• work with textured coatings will usually not have to be performed by an authorised contractor . Nevertheless , only skilled reliable individuals working to the suitable specifications may perform such work
• a reduced control limit of 0 .1 fibres per millilitre of air gauged over four (4) hours employers can no longer carry out work in their own premises with their own workers without a licence if the work would otherwise require a licence
• suitable training is required for anyone who is, or may be exposed to asbestos.
If you have any concerns with regards to asbestos at work, or even a residential premises, contact our customer services on 01903 297818 or fill in our contact form and we’ll be able to help you further.