While looking at some statistics on the HSE website yesterday, it brought to mind a situation where work had to stop due to lack of Asbestos Awareness training.
Some refurbishment work was being conducted in an old building at work and I happened to be walking past the skip and saw what looked to be a fibrous board that appeared suspiciously like Asbestos. I immediately stopped the work and had the material tested and discovered that it was indeed Asbestos.
After evacuating the area I then had to conduct widespread air testing to detect any fibre released in the air - mainly to reassure employees.
This resulted in a tremendous amount of disruption to the business because after evacuating the building we then brought in a specialist 'licenced' contractor to remove the asbestos properly. Additionally, as the need was urgent, the contractor cost was double their usual rate.
We had to reassure all employees that there had been minimal exposure as only a very small amount of Asbestos had been found. To ensure that the employees understood how minimal their exposure had been, we brought in counsellors to convey this message through face to face meetings.
Asbestosis has a latency period of around 20 to 30 years after exposure - it is currently unclear as to how much Asbestos constitutes a level significant enough to lead to Asbestosis,
Work recommenced some two weeks after I sighted the Asbestos. However the matter did not stop there.
On further investigation it was found that the Asbestos was not recorded on the Asbestos Register and this led to us having to repeat a site-wide Asbestos Survey at additional cost.
We also ascertained that a number of contractors had not been properly educated as to how to recognise asbestos and what to do when discovering it.
This led to an intensive Asbestos Awareness Training Workshop which all contractors were required to attend prior to conducting any further work.
My point? With a small amount of forethought and the right kind of education and processes in place none of the above would have occurred.
So review your processes, check your employees/contractors have had appropriate Asbestos Awareness training (which needs to be refreshed every year) and if not, give HR Vision a call on 01635255202 as we hold Asbestos Awareness training on a regular basis and can educate your staff on how to recognise Asbestos and how to conduct themselves if they discover it.