As the new academic year gets underway at universities and educational estates across the UK, students and staff are facing an uncertain time. With Freshers’ week blighted by the pandemic and the Government’s ‘Eat Out To Help Out’ scheme now firmly last month’s fish and chip paper, many new students and undergraduates have been forced into lengthy spells of communal lockdown within their halls of residence in a bid to control the epidemic.
In the midst of this situation, UKNAR is making a serious appeal to university dutyholders, directors of estates and those actively responsible for the health and safety of building maintenance and occupancy, to adopt a more modern approach to managing asbestos and contractors safely.
Despite its banned usage at the end of the 20th century asbestos remains present in most university buildings that pre-date this time. According to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request carried out by a leading national law firm in 2019 it is understood that two thirds of the UK’s top-ranking universities have asbestos present in the fabric of their campus buildings. In addition, universities are responsible for the safe management of asbestos in thousands of residential properties and student accommodation
With students back on campus and spending an unprecedented amount of time inside, the risk of potential asbestos exposures due to disturbances inevitably increases. Contractors carrying out the simplest maintence works and repairs can unwittingly disturb asbestos containing materials releasing millions of invisible, highly carcinogenic fibres that may be inhaled by any of the building occupants - to lethal effect in future years. On such a large and varied estate accidents can happen easily if people haven’t been effectively informed of its presence. The Covid situation makes this key dutyholder “responsibility to inform” even harder to fulfil . It is also harder for the dutyholder to know that this duty has been properly fulfilled across all of its estate by all of its contractors.
The high removal costs make it unrealistic for universities and educational estates to completely remove asbestos from all buildings. However, UKNAR has designed a simple solution that can help dutyholders manage asbestos in situ more simply and safely: by simultaneously highlighting where asbestos is known in the building and educating those most at risk.
QR codes – save lives
UKNAR is proactively inviting 10 forward thinking UK universities to participate in free early adopter user trials of Asbestos SMART QR code technology - a very simple, contactless, paperless system designed to help dutyholders manage their asbestos risks and asbestos registers in a more effective and straightforward way.
The system saves time, money and lives plus provides extra reassurance and evidence to conscientious dutyholders that they are continuing to manage and reduce this deadly risk more effectively.
With Asbestos SMART the costs of administration are reduced for dutyholders and contractors alike, while the likelihood of delays to works or other potential and expensive disruption that may be caused by an accidental asbestos disturbance are minimised.
The need for handling clunky paper-based asbestos registers and files is eliminated and simple reports allow dutyholders to see how asbestos well asbestos is being managed across dozens or hundreds of sites.
Andrew Paten, Co-Founder UKNAR comments: “Our simple Asbestos SMART system takes advantage of the ubiquitous smartphone (and now QR codes). This contactless approach means it is particularly helpful in managing contractors safely and efficiently in the current Covid environment. We really hope that university dutyholders will join UKNAR and adopt Asbestos SMART as a simple, inexpensive way to help protect the next generation from unnecessary asbestos exposure.”
As a social enterprise with a commitment to community interests over profits, 5% of all Asbestos SMART licence fees go to UKNAR’s charity partners Mesothelioma UK in support of the 2,600 victims expected to die of asbestos related cancer in the UK this year.