Asbestos is a fibrous mineral that was commonly used in building materials for decades and is responsible for the deaths of 5,000 people each year, with 66 per cent of them having worked in construction, according to the HSE.
What makes the mineral truly dangerous is that its effects can take years or even decades to become obvious, and by then, the damage can be nearly irreversible. Unfortunately, 23 per cent of UK construction workers say they have been exposed to asbestos, according to a survey from IOSH.
In fact 20 tradespeople die each week from mesothelioma and roughly 3,300 construction workers die each year from exposure to asbestos. The problem is the potential for exposure to asbestos is relatively high, as it can still be found in many buildings built before 2000. Even though it’s so prevalent, 18 per cent of construction workers said that if they found asbestos they wouldn’t know what to do.
Despite how common exposure to asbestos can be, construction workers often don’t take the proper precautions. In fact, 32 per cent of construction workers don’t check the asbestos register before they begin a job, and 15 per cent don’t even know what the register is. Even though exposure to asbestos seems inevitable, protection is relatively simple.
- Check the asbestos register before carrying out any work. If there is no register or survey, or the report is not clear, don’t start work. Instead, have the property inspected for asbestos, or presume that any material you need to disturb contains asbestos and organise control methods to reduce exposure to the material.
- Provide workers with asbestos health and safety training.
- Provide workers with personal protective equipment, such as disposable overalls type 5, single-use disposable gloves, laceless boots and respiratory protective equipment.
It’s important to carry out and record a risk assessment for your work – you need to think about what could cause harm, and what precautions you will take to prevent it. Write down how you manage Health and Safety in your business in the form of a Health and Safety Policy (this is compulsory if you employ 5 or more people).
You will also need to give your employees access to competent advice so that they can meet their responsibilities and understand the asbestos risk. This could be someone within your business who has received training, or an external consultant.
If you would like a free review of your approach to risk management contact one of our HETAS Insurance advisers on 01905 886462.
HETAS Insurance Services is a trading name of Jelf Insurance Brokers Ltd which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Not all products and services offered are regulated by the FCA. Registered in England and Wales number 0837227. Registered Office: Hillside Court, Bowling Hill, Chipping Sodbury, BS37 6JX. FP18.529
Source: Zywave 2018 Construction Commercial Insurance profile