18th February 2020
Asbestos and asbestos-containing materials were regularly used in new and refurbished buildings up to the 1970s. Since then, usage declined and by 2000, the supplying of virtually all materials containing asbestos was banned and they became unavailable for sale or use.
Due to the extensive usage, many premises and older plant and equipment will still contain asbestos which may not be readily visible or obvious without a detailed inspection.
The danger occurs when asbestos materials are damaged or disturbed thus causing the release of dangerous fibres. If these are breathed in they may cause serious diseases including mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. There is unlikely to be an immediate effect to health because these diseases can take many years to develop. They may however be fatal and around 4500 people in the UK die every year from asbestos related diseases.
Any person working within the construction sector may be at risk of disturbing asbestos – these could include maintenance persons, painters & decorators, building and allied trades, phone & alarm engineers and more.
Before any relevant work is commenced, there should be a check carried out to identify if asbestos is present. Commercial properties should have a register or assessment to confirm the presence of asbestos. If this is not available work should not commence without further checks being carried out.
Most work with asbestos will need to be carried out by a licensed contractor although there are certain exceptions that came into force in April 2012, this being normally based on a maximum time exposure to asbestos containing materials. Full details can be found on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website or via their “Asbestos Essentials” task sheet.
Those businesses involved with asbestos handling must fully disclose the matter to their employers liability insurers and public liability insurers to ascertain the extent of cover available to them.
In addition, your broker should be able to provide you with health and safety support. All MPW clients can receive H & S advice from our specialised company MPW Risk Solutions. See www.mpwbrokers.com and follow the links.
The message is clear – asbestos is a serious concern and must be responded to.