With asbestos still present in an estimated 500,000 UK workplaces and 2 million homes built before 2000 you may be concerned that you or your loved ones could be exposed to asbestos either in your workplace, a public building or your home. Unfortunately, it is not always safe, practical or financially viable to remove all asbestos from all premises.
It should be emphasised that although exposure to invisible asbestos fibres can cause long term deadly lung diseases such as mesothelioma, asbestos is also considered to be safe unless disturbed.
Unfortunately, because there are thousands of different types of asbestos containing materials it’s not always easy to recognise. However, it is easy for someone to disturb them, unwittingly exposing and endangering themselves and others. This is especially true for a wide range of contractors, often whilst carrying out very minor works in premises. Even hitting a nail into an ACM may release invisible but deadly fibres that may remain in the air and be inhaled by anybody in the vicinity.
The most important thing is for people to be aware of where asbestos containing materials may be present and ensure that the right measures are in place so that the asbestos remains undisturbed.
What can the public can do to protect themselves and others in places where asbestos may still be present?
Asbestos in the workplace
Ask for a copy of the asbestos management survey, asbestos register and asbestos management plan for your own building or workplace. Your employer should be able to show you whether asbestos is present and demonstrate the measures they are taking to ensure that any asbestos in situ is being managed safely. See dutyholder responsibilities.
Ask your employer to register your workplace on the UK National Asbestos Register database and display appropriate signage using the Asbestos SMART system so that everyone is aware of the location of any asbestos containing materials and can avoid disturbing them.
Request either asbestos awareness training for staff or at least free asbestos education.
Asbestos in public buildings
Under the Freedom of Information Act you are entitled to ask hospitals, schools, local authorities and government bodies for copies of their asbestos registers and asbestos management plans.
You can also support our goal in calling for the asbestos registers for all public buildings to be registered with UKNAR by December 2022 so that responsible dutyholders can make this critical information easily accessible to all those at risk in their premises.
Asbestos in the home
At home you are likely to be responsible for your own safety but you can consult the following picture guide the HSE have produced to help you identify where asbestos may still be present in any home built before 2000.
You can also enquire and insist that any contractors carrying out any works in your home have had up to date asbestos awareness training.
You may choose to get your own asbestos survey done by a professional surveyor, especially if you are carrying out major works.