In light of the Health and Safety Executive's (HSE) asbestos safety campaign, are robust protective measures built into your supply chain?
The HSE ‘Beware Asbestos’ campaign paints a bleak picture of the asbestos situation in the UK. Asbestos is the single biggest cause of work-related deaths in the UK and can still be found in many unlikely places such as ceiling tiles, boilers, lofts, and guttering. If disturbed and inhaled, asbestos can cause a number of diseases - the most fatal of which are mesothelioma and lung cancer. Diseases such as these claim the lives of 20 trades people each week.
Given this grim outlook, it is paramount that clients ensure that contractors undertaking work on their behalf are fully compliant on a range of stringent measures to provide protection.
Updated code of practice
Last year the HSE updated its Approved Code of Practice and guidance on working safely with asbestos.
The change involves combining two Approved Codes of Practice (ACOP) into one. As such, ACOP L127 (The management of asbestos in non-domestic premises) and ACOP L143 (Work with materials containing asbestos) are now both consolidated into the revised ACOP L143 (Managing and working with asbestos).
Broad responsibilities under the original Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 remain unchanged. As such, the person or persons responsible for the maintenance of a non-domestic premises have a ‘duty to manage’ asbestos within it. Accordingly, they are responsible for protecting anyone using or working on their site from asbestos and its associated health risks.
The ‘duty holder’ must complete three steps:
- Identify the quantity and condition of any asbestos in a building. If in doubt, materials must be presumed to contain asbestos
- Complete a risk profiling assessment
- Make a plan to manage and act upon any risks
According to law, as long as asbestos containing material is in good condition and not likely to be damaged, then it may be left in place. The crucial aspect of the regulation is that any asbestos must be monitored and managed continuously. Failure to do so puts people at risk and can result in hefty fines.
In addition to these compulsory steps there are some additional strategies that property managers can follow to ensure utmost levels of protection. Clients should seek evidence from contractors that they comply with safeguards, such as:
First and foremost, asbestos awareness training for employees, contractors and sub-contractors can prove an effective protection against disease. HSE research shows that many workers recognise the risk asbestos poses, but are less aware of when they are likely to be exposed to it, or what measures they can take to protect themselves.
It is important to check that all operatives undertaking ‘invasive’ work have proper asbestos awareness training. Checking on the quality of any training is also important. If courses haven't been approved by organisations like UKATA or IATP, it is important to scrutinise the course material to check that at least the basics have been covered.
It is good practice to provide refresher training annually, remembering to include new starters as well as those returning from long periods of absence. A thorough analysis of asbestos competences is built into Altius’ standard contractor assessment to provide peace of mind to clients.
Risk Assessment and management
An asbestos survey is another way to ensure robust defences are maintained against asbestos exposure. Although not a legal requirement, it is good practice for those looking to effectively manage asbestos, especially if they are unsure how much of it is present. If carried out by a competent and qualified surveyor, asbestos surveys can provide accurate information about the location, amount and type of any asbestos-containing materials.
The asbestos survey report will inform the preparation of an asbestos register, a risk assessment and a management plan. Together these components will give a manager a firm grip of the asbestos situation in a building, if they are kept updated.
Managing asbestos right across the supply chain
Managing asbestos across a supply chain requires extra levels of caution and diligence owing to the number of layers involved in the management process. The owner of the building or organisation commissioning the work must remember that they have the ultimate responsibility as the ‘duty holders’. Accordingly they are the ones who must ensure that regulations are being followed and safety measures are in place at every step of the supply chain.
How much do you know?
Asbestos is just one area of your supply chain you should be monitoring. If you're left feeling that you need to know more about your supply chain, download our free guide to Improving Contractor Performance with Compliance here.
Photo Credit: Aaron Suggs