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Asbestos: why ‘getting the job done’ is just as important as training

13 July 2018

By: Darren Duncan, Surrey Safety Training


A common challenge I encounter when training various trades people is that even though they know asbestos is bad for them they’re complacent when it comes to “getting the job done”.


It’s law in the UK for everyone who may come into contact with asbestos to be trained; this duty is put onto the employer, and therefore also applies to the self-employed – you are your own boss, after all!


However, I regularly work for builders who ask for confined space or abrasive wheel training and part of my job is to make that training specific to the type of projects they’re working on. When I find out it’s demolition or refurbishment of older property types, my alarm bells start ringing!


Any building constructed before 2000 has a very high chance of containing asbestos; it works out around 75% of them do. This could relate to homes, shops, factories, schools, warehouses or hospitals - the list is endless.


A few key things to bear in mind about asbestos:

  • there is no ‘safe level’ of exposure to asbestos;
  • it can take just one fibre to kill you;
  • twenty-five UK tradespeople die each week from exposure;
  • a pinhead dipped into refined asbestos will contain roughly 500,000 fibres; and
  • you cannot see, smell or taste asbestos fibres in the air.


With those facts in mind, you can probably understand my frustration when learning that the builders I’m working for have never been asbestos trained (it is the most important training they will ever attend), not only because it possibly will affect them later on in life but also because they invariably take these fibres home to their loved ones and contaminate the buildings they’re working in (and the clients they're working for).


I deliver training on some of the biggest building sites in the country, and it still amazes me how many guys are not clean shaven; I see signs in the toilets of what colour your urine should be, and regularly spot training taking place about wearing sun cream or eating healthier. I see sites that ban the use of steps and ladders because of the danger (until the end of the job when money and time is running out), but I then see the dust and the beards, moustaches and designer stubble - all of which will break the seal of that mask when it comes to asbestos and silica dust.


An asbestos survey must be carried out on every building built before 2000. It is the contractor’s responsibility to do so if their work is likely to disturb the fabric of the building.


This is another law in the UK that is often missed, especially with smaller building contractors, plumbers, alarm engineers, electricians and carpenters.


So, to sum up:

  • Get asbestos awareness trained - it’s the law!
  • Get a survey done on the property your working on if it was built before 2000.
  • Get face-fit tested to make sure the respirator actually fits.
  • Insist the people working on your property have all of the above in place!

If you would like to find out more about Asbestos Training, contact us today!

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