Asbestos issues in construction

Asbestos, What You Need To Know To Keep Safe

Posted By Kerry Budworth on 2015-09-16 19:40

Asbestos, unlike many other harmful substances at work is actually a natural substance. A substance that humans have been mining and using for up to 4500 years. However, the modern era of asbestos use began in the 1850s. The use of asbestos became increasingly widespread towards the end of the 19th century. It was used for products such as fire retardant coatings, concrete, bricks, pipes and fireplace cement, heat, fire, and acid resistant gaskets, pipe insulation, ceiling insulation, fireproof drywall, flooring, roofing, lawn furniture, and drywall joint compound.

Its versatility causes the problems

As you can see, asbestos is a versatile substance and it was that very versatility that made it popular. That popularity is what now makes one of the most dangerous substances that you are likely to come across in construction and demolition. Around 1902 it began to become obvious to many that working with asbestos caused ill health. In fact the first documented death connected with asbestos was in 1906. However, it took  almost another thirty years for any government to set out regulations governing work with asbestos.

The increasing pressure from lobby groups and the increasing loss of life from asbestos related health issues eventually led to a ban. In the United Kingdom, blue and brown asbestos materials were banned outright in 1985. The import, sale and second hand reuse of white asbestos was outlawed in 1999. 

Still the biggest cause of occupational related deaths

Even though the substance has been banned for new use for some time, asbestos is still the biggest cause of UK work-related deaths and deaths are expected only to rise. The British Lung Foundation estimate that more than 2,000 people are diagnosed with mesothelioma (cancer from asbestos exposure) every year in the UK and someone dies every five hours. In a report called Projection of mesothelioma mortality in Great Britain, commissioned by the HSE, around 91,000 deaths are predicted to occur in the UK by 2050 as a direct result of exposure to asbestos

Even though the use of asbestos has been banned for many years in the United Kingdom, in 2011 it was reported that over 50% of UK houses still contained the substance. So if you are taking remedial work or are involved in demolition, you need to be aware of the risks that you will come across it. as we said, even though asbestos is no longer used in UK industry, asbestos related deaths are predicted to rise. This is due to continued exposure of workers and others to asbestos in existing installations such as older buildings, industrial plant, etc.

Occupiers duty

That is why it is the duty of occupiers of non domestic premises to undertake surveys and to have plans for managing asbestos safely was legislated for in the 2012 Control of Asbestos Regulations . These regulations state that owners of non-domestic buildings have a duty to manage asbestos on the premises by making themselves aware of its presence. They also need to ensure the material does not deteriorate and must remove it if it becomes necessary.

Employers Duty

It is also the duty of employers, particularly in the construction industry,  in particular, whose operatives may come into contact with asbestos to deliver annual training to their staff about the dangers of asbestos. The training is based on good advice on what they need to do to keep themselves and others safe from this potentially deadly substance.

 Because of the risks of exposure to many airborne substances in the construction sector, it makes sense to put an annual healthcare surveillance strategy into place for your staff. That strategy should include Lung function tests and general health medicals amongst others. If you think your staff may be exposed to asbestos, or if you are an employer in the construction industry, we can help you to protect and monitor your employees. As a national occupational health provider we offer occupational health services in Leicester and across the United Kingdom.