Health Hazards of Asbestos
There are over 5000 asbestos related deaths every year. Younger people, if routinely exposed to asbestos fibres over time, are at greater risk of developing asbestos-related disease than older workers. This is due to the time it takes for the body to develop symptoms after exposure to asbestos (latency). Exposure to asbestos can cause four main diseases:
Mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the lungs; it is always fatal and is almost exclusively caused by exposure to asbestos)
Asbestos-related lung cancer (which is almost always fatal)
Asbestosis (a scarring of the lungs which is not always fatal but can be a very debilitating disease, greatly affecting quality of life)
Diffuse pleural thickening (a thickening of the membrane surrounding the lungs which can restrict lung expansion leading to breathlessness.)
It can take anywhere between 15-60 years for any symptoms to develop after exposure, so these diseases will not affect you immediately but may do later in life. You need to start protecting yourself against any exposure to asbestos now because the effect is cumulative.
Asbestos was a widely used material within commercial buildings, homes and machinery until 1999, when it was banned. This means that asbestos is common in the general environment. However, working directly with asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) can give personal exposures to airborne asbestos that are much higher than normal environmental levels. Repeated occupational exposures can give rise to a substantial cumulative exposure over time. This will increase the risk of developing an asbestos-related disease in the future.
The majority of the current fatal cases from asbestos exposure (approximately 4000 deaths per year) are associated with very high exposures from past industrial processes and installation of asbestos products.
The main health and safety legislation relating to the management of asbestos
· Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974
· Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012
· The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992
· Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
· Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015
WHAT TO DO
Are you responsible for maintenance or repair?
Does the duty to manage apply to you and your premises?
When was it built?
Was it built before 2000? (All asbestos use was prohibited by 1999)
Is the asbestos damaged? Does it need removing? Can it be managed?
Look at building plans, previous asbestos surveys and any other relevant documents.
Inspect your building.
Create an asbestos register to list where asbestos may be present.
Determining priorities for action
Use a scoring tool to work out what needs doing first.
Decide how to deal with the different types of asbestos
What treatment is required for the different types of asbestos, eg sprayed asbestos, asbestos cement.
The plan brings together your asbestos register, plans of work and schedule.Testing for asbestos
If work is required, you need to test for asbestos first. Tell people what you’re doing. You need to tell employees, contractors and maintenance workers about your findings.
Does the work need a licensed contractor?
If any work is done on asbestos, your records need updating, and you need regular checks on the state of the asbestos.