Asbestos and Tradespersons

Asbestos and Tradespersons

Asbestos was first imported into the UK in large quantities by two Glasgow businessmen in 1871. Because of its remarkable properties of insulation against heat, electricity, noise and vibration its use quickly spread in a heavily industrialised UK largely driven by steam locomotion. Following the large scale destruction of many of our cities in the Second World War there was a requirement to quickly and cheaply re-house tens of thousands of people, at a time when there was a critical shortage of normal building materials. The answer to the problem? The new wonder material – asbestos! Between 1871 and about 1980 some 17 million tonnes of asbestos were imported and current HSE estimates are that some 9.4 million properties in the UK contain asbestos.

Many of these properties have been refurbished over the past few decades and the asbestos unknowingly disturbed. This has resulted in a very sharp rise in asbestos related deaths – up from a base line of about 2000 per annum to about 5000 per annum. Asbestos related death is now the biggest single industrial killer the UK has ever seen. Analysis of these deaths shows conclusively that most occur in tradespersons.

However, in order for there to be any real risk to health, asbestos fibres must be rendered ‘airborne’ and then breathed in – quite clearly this can be completely avoided by properly identifying the presence of asbestos and taking steps to ensure the material is avoided or dealt with BEFORE work commences.

It is, therefore, of paramount importance that tradespersons and contractors are properly trained, which must include ‘asbestos awareness’ but can also include asbestos ‘minor works’ where it is likely that asbestos containing materials (ACM’s) may be encountered. Under the UKATA (United Kingdom Asbestos Training Association) accreditation scheme these courses are known as Category A and Category B training respectively (Category C training is for Licensed Asbestos Removal Contractors). It is also imperative that UKAS accredited Asbestos ‘Refurbishment’ (or ‘Demolition’) Surveys are carried out in the areas of proposed work in all premises built before the year 2000. Furthermore, competent asbestos risk management advice and support should always be available to ensure safe working procedures are developed and monitoring carried out.

Established in 1978 by Prof Roger Willey, ACS Physical Risk Control is one of the oldest asbestos consultancies in the UK, holds UKAS accreditation for asbestos surveying and testing and was a founder member of UKATA. Our unique Asbestos Remediation Project Management and Monitoring services can also provide you with peace of mind in relation to cost, quality and safety control where contracts involve any significant asbestos risk.