Exposure to asbestos is hazardous to health. The three main conditions – asbestosis, lung cancer and Mesothelioma – can all be fatal. Current estimates put the death rate in the UK from asbestos-induced diseases at almost 4,000 a year, a figure not likely to decrease until 2020 or later.
Workers in the maintenance and construction trades comprise the largest group of people contracting the diseases, rather than those who worked in the old asbestos manufacturing and installation industry.
In the UK, the use of asbestos in buildings and construction materials is now completely prohibited. Building owners and those in control of non-domestic premises have a duty to manage the asbestos-containing materials (ACM) within their buildings by formulating an asbestos management plan.
This will involve identifying whether buildings have ACM, assessing the risk from each occurrence, and having a process to manage the ACM. In addition, any work on ACM or work that is likely to disturb ACM is regulated by the need for additional risk assessments prior to work taking place, control measures to prevent the spread of asbestos, and evidence of training and competency.
Depending on the risk, work on some ACM may be restricted to licensed companies who must follow a notification procedure and carry out the work inside segregated work areas, using specially trained operatives who undergo medical surveillance.