Asbestos containing materials can still be found in a huge number of buildings, including shops, hospitals, schools, factories and domestic properties, throughout the UK, even though the use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999.
Plumbers and electricains, whether part of a maintenance team, working for a contractor or self employed, need to be aware that asbestos can be found in numerous materials, which can be found in numerous places within a building, such as lagging on boilers and pipes, insulation board, vinyl floor tiles, and cement roofs/downpipes.
Due to the nature of their work plumbers are at greater risk from asbestos exposure than most.
With regard to peoples’ health and safety at work the overarching legislation is the Health and Safety at Work Act etc. 1974. Itplaces a duty on every employer to ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work for all employees and non-employees who may be affected by the employer’s activities.
Managing and working with asbestos is covered by the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 (CAR 2012). Within this, regulation 10 states that employers need to make sure that anyone liable to disturb asbestos during their work, or who supervises such employees, receives the correct level of information, instruction and training to enable them to carry out their work safely and competently, and without risk to themselves or others.
Plumbers are specifically identified as requiring asbestos awareness training, as this should be given to those employees whose work could foreseeably disturb the fabric of the building and expose them to asbestos.
Where is asbestos
Also, regulation 5, states that employers must not undertake work which exposes or is liable to expose employees to asbestos in any premises unless a suitable and sufficient assessment as to whether asbestos is present and in what condition, e.g. asbestos survey.
Manage the risks
Regulation 4 of the CAR 2012, covers non-domestic premises (e.g. shops, factories, hospitals and schools) and the common parts of domestic premises, such as, corridors, garages and boiler rooms, and guest accommodations, such as hotels and halls of residence.
The duty holder needs to create, an asbestos register, this is a record of the location of asbestos containing materials (ACMs) and the condition, including a drawing of the premises. It should be dated, as periodic reviews should be carried out, so an up-to-date record is available on the location and condition of all ACMs.
Work at a premise should only start once the duty holder is satisfied that the information in the asbestos register, is known and understood by the workers who are doing the work on-site, and is easily accessible for anyone who needs to inspect it.
In summary, plumbers and electricains should undertake asbestos awareness training and receive good communication, from employers/duty holders of premises, as to where ACM is in a building. When armed with all this information plumbers should know not to disturb or remove asbestos containing material, e.g. not drill into asbestos insulation board and not remove asbestos pipe lagging.
Plumbers and electricains must take the risks from asbestos seriously – it isthe greatest cause of work-related deaths in the UK, with currently approx. 5,000 asbestos related cancer deaths per year.
The Asbestos Removal Contractors Association provides asbestos training courses and guidance documents, visit www.arca.org.uk