Beware of asbestos in the workplace and around your home!
Posted on 7th Apr, 2015 | By Lorretta Tatham
The Health and Safety at Work act helps to safeguard against a whole range of accidents and incidents in the workplace – not just slips, trips and falls.
One of the major issues the act provides guidance on is asbestos in the workplace.
While we all know that falls from a height cause thousands of accidents every year, asbestos is the biggest workplace killer of all. In fact, 20 tradespeople, on average, die every week from asbestos-related diseases.
It’s not an issue of the past, it’s an issue affecting many people now.
The Health and Safety at Work act not only raises awareness of this killer, it also aims to encourage tradesmen to change their behaviour.
A new app from the HSE, Beware Asbestos, helps tradespeople by indicating where they could come in contact with asbestos and how to deal with the risks.
While we may all know about asbestos and the risks, we don’t always realise when our job may expose us to it, or how to protect ourselves should we be exposed to asbestos.
The dangers of asbestos
Being exposed to asbestos fibres can have a significant impact on your health.
The most common consequences include:
- Mesothelioma. A cancer of the lining of the lungs
- Asbestos-related lung cancer.
- Asbestosis. A painful condition causing scarring of the lungs.
- Diffuse pleural thickening. Thickening of the membrane surrounding the lungs, leading to breathlessness.
Where you might find asbestos
There are risks in any house or building built before 2000, as it was a widely used building material until 1999. Asbestos can typically be found in the following places:
- Ceiling tiles
- Pipe insulation
- Sprayed and textured coating
- Electrical boxes
- Fire doors
- Soffit boards
- Gaskets and sealants on pipes
- Asbestos cement sheeting
- Boards around windows, radiators and fireplaces
Protecting yourself from asbestos
As you can’t see or smell asbestos fibres, protecting yourself from coming into contact with it can be difficult.
So if you’re working on a property built or refurbished before the year 2000, you must request all available documentation on the use of asbestos linked to that property.
If you do come across a type of material you’re unfamiliar with and suspect may be asbestos, it may be worth looking up an asbestos image gallery online.
If you’re likely to disturbing asbestos in your line of work, you need to have received appropriate training – for example, asbestos awareness, training to work with non-licensed asbestos materials and training to work with licensed materials.
To minimise your risk of exposure to asbestos, wear PPE and use the right tools:
- Use a protective mask and clothing
- Use hand tools instead of power tools to keep dust to a minimum
- Don’t sweep up dust or debris, use a Class H vacuum cleaner or damp rags instead
- Deal with asbestos waste responsibly – disposing of it at a licensed tip