It’s a bold statement and you might sit back, reading this thinking ‘no, asbestos poisoning is something that happens to others, not me.’ But the stark reality is that in 2015 asbestos related mesothelioma fatalities in the UK peaked at around 2,000 – a fact that illustrates asbestos is still a very real, latent problem in buildings that pre-date regulations. ‘So, how can I know if I am in a risk category?’ you might ask. Well, here are some guidelines.
You fall into the higher risk category if:
- You are likely to work on buildings that were built before the year 2000 (that’s a lot of buildings!)
- you are working on a site which you are unfamiliar with (again, that’s highly likely)
- asbestos-containing materials were not identified prior to the job start
- asbestos-containing materials were identified but the details were not given to those in charge of the work
- you are unsure how to spot and work safely with asbestos-containing materials don’t
- you have not been given UKATA approved training
- you are asbestos aware but are under pressure to put yourself in a risky situation by cutting corners to save time and money
If any one of these rings true with you then it’s time to approach your work and make sure that you and your co-workers are offered the opportunity to undertake one of the many excellent asbestos awareness courses. It could very well save your life.
You may well be thinking ‘how on earth am I going to fit a course in with my work load or familial responsibilities’ but you needn’t worry for there are a good range of excellent UKATA approved E-learning courses out there that take as little as 2-3 hours of your time to complete. The nature of such courses also puts less of a financial and time-related burden on the employer, which could make them act faster in signing up employees.
In the interim period between reading this and taking an accredited course (which should not be long, I hasten to add) there are some important facts that you should be aware of, which again could save your life, or at least set alarm bells ringing and make you think twice before beginning any work in a suspicious site.
- Asbestos fibres are not visible in the air and nor do they smell. This means that if you are unsure whether asbestos materials have been disturbed you should always be extra cautious. If in doubt, get out.
- Asbestos is only dangerous when airborne fibres are present and breathed in.
- Absestos related symptoms take a good number of years to make themselves known.
- If you are in a high risk category and smoke you are at a significantly higher risk of developing lung cancer.
- Assuming asbestos is in decent condition and located in a room where you are not going to be disturbing anything at all then it is not a significant risk.