Employers are legally required to provide asbestos training to workers. Regulation 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 states that "every employer must ensure that any employee employed by that employer is given adequate information, instruction and training". This obligation is enforced by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which acts as the governing body for occupational health and safety across the UK. Asbestos is a highly dangerous material which can be found in abundance within UK infrastructure and beyond. Asbestos exposure can result in the development of cancer and other dangerous diseases. Exposure has resulted in significant suffering and loss of life. Alarmingly, the HSE estimate that around 20 people die every week due to asbestos-related diseases. Therefore, the provision of asbestos training is a moral responsibility as much as a legal one.
Who Requires Asbestos Training?
Asbestos training should be given to all employees who are likely to disturb asbestos in their normal work and to those who supervise them. Workers who are likely to require asbestos training include: maintenance workers, painters and decorators, plasterers, electricians, plumbers, construction workers, roofers, gas fitters and building surveyors, amongst many more. Self-employed workers should make sure that they complete an appropriate level of training when working with asbestos. Not only does this offer them protection from asbestos exposure but it also ensures that their work is not putting the public at any unnecessary risk.
What Should be Covered in Asbestos Training?
It is important to select a training provider that covers all the necessary aspects of asbestos awareness and management. Legally, training must include information on the following areas:
- How to recognise asbestos and asbestos containing materials (ACMs).
- What to do when asbestos or ACMs are encountered in order to avoid inhaling disturbed asbestos fibres.
- The health risks of asbestos exposure.
- How asbestos exposure increases the likelihood of developing lung cancer and how this risk is multiplied by smoking.
- How to work safely with asbestos, including control measures and the use of protective equipment.
- What to do in an emergency involving sudden asbestos exposure.
Section 10 of the Control of Asbestos Regulation 2012 states that "information, instruction and training must be given at regular intervals". This highlights the need for regular refreshers. Not only does this allow employees to keep up to date with the latest advances in asbestos management, but also raises awareness and keeps safe practices at the forefront of workers' minds.
Why is Asbestos Training Important?
Providing asbestos training is an easy way for employers to protect their workers' health and simultaneously fulfil their legal duties. As well as equipping workers with vital information, engagement with regular asbestos training raises awareness of asbestos risks and how they can be mitigated. Employers have a duty of care to their employees. Workers should be armed them with the knowledge and skills to protect their own health, and the health of the general public. If asbestos exposure occurs on-site and employers are found not to be providing vital asbestos training, massive fines may be incurred.